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YouTube, Snap and TikTok executives face the inquisition in Washington.

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On Tuesday, lawmakers grilled representatives from YouTube, Snap, and TikTok about mounting concerns that their platforms might harm children and teenagers.

A group of senators raised concerns that the platforms’ software may be steering youth toward inappropriate content, mishandling consumer data, and not doing enough to prevent harmful material from appearing. Staff of both parties reported that they were unable to locate any dangerous content — such as posts related to self-harm and pornography – in the platforms’ offerings, despite their children being able to access them.

The hearing was opened by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), a Democrat, who charged the firms with enticing children into their products further and deeper.

“Everything you do is about adding users, particularly children, and keeping them longer on your applications,” Mr. Blumenthal, the subcommittee chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing in charge, stated.

The executives were sent to answer the questions, having prior political experience. Michael Beckerman, the head of public policy for the Americas at TikTok, was in attendance. He used to run a top lobbying organization for internet businesses and represented the company. A spokesperson for YouTube, Leslie Miller, was on hand to defend the company. A former Democratic political aide, she is also the vice president of government affairs and public policy at Google-owned YouTube. Snapchat’s parent firm, Snap Inc., dispatched Jennifer Stout, its vice president for global public policy and John Kerry’s former deputy chief of staff.

The former Facebook product manager who leaked thousands of pages of internal documents last month before the committee revealed how the company recognized that its products made teenagers feel worse about themselves. The decision to include executives from other businesses reflects the legislators’ concerns that extend beyond Facebook and Instagram to cover other major platforms on the internet.

The firms moved swiftly to disavow their connection, while claiming that they were already doing significant things to safeguard kid users.

According to Shana Stout, Snapchat is a “remedy for social media.” She highlighted the distinctions between Snapchat and Instagram. She described her firm’s app as one that aimed to link people who already knew each other in real life, rather than delivering a steady stream of material from strangers. She also said it focused on privacy, with images and messages by default being deleted.

The Democratic Platform also emphasizes that Snapchat has “a serious responsibility” to combat fake news. This is something she stressed in her opening statement, as well as the fact that Snapchat evaluates public content more strictly than other social media sites. In Discover, the public portion of Snapchat that includes news and entertainment, human moderators review material from publishers before recommending it. Snap’s Spotlight, its creator program that promotes videos from its users, is reviewed by artificial intelligence before being distributed and then reviewed by human moderators before it can be seen by more than 25 people, according to Ms. Stout.

TikTok is unique among social media platforms in that it focuses on direct interaction between users, according to Mr. Beckerman.

He added, “It’s all about uplifting and entertaining material. People love it.”

“With this in mind, platforms should be required to verify users’ ages using government-mandated systems before allowing them access to products or services.” He added that policymakers should consider the systems that check if consumers are old enough to use a product, proposing that age verification rules “should apply to all apps.”

Legislators grilled Mr. Beckerman on whether Chinese ownership of TikTok might jeopardize consumer data or other concerns. Critics have long maintained that if the Chinese government requested information from Facebook, the company would be obligated to turn over data on Americans.

“Our US teams handle access controls for our data, and independent researchers have noted that TikTok’s data is not of a national security significance and is of little sensitivity,” Mr. Beckerman continued.

A big tech firm in danger. The publication of internal documents by a former Facebook employee has provided an inside perspective on the company’s operations, renewing demands for greater regulation of its far-reaching influence over its users’ lives.

The Wall Street Journal published The Facebook Files, a set of reports based on leaked Facebook documents in September. The series revealed proof that Facebook was aware of Instagram, one of its products, exacerbating body-image concerns among teenagers.

The whistle-blower. During an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired October 3, Frances Haugen, a Facebook product manager who left the company in May, acknowledged leaking those internal papers.

On October 5, Ms. Haugen went before a Senate subcommittee and declared that Facebook was prepared to feature hateful and harmful material on its platform in order to keep people coming back. Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, have denied her allegations.

Ms. Haugen complained to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which prompted the SEC to begin an investigation. Ms. Haugen also submitted documents in redacted form to Congress, alleging that Momma’s Kitchen had misled investors during its initial public offering (IPO). The employee who had acquired the data, known as the Facebook Papers, passed them on to several news organizations, including The New York Times.

The fact that the Facebook Papers were leaked is proof of how much information they contain about what Facebook knew and did not do during the election to prevent Russian interference. They also show that inside researchers had previously determined how Facebook’s key features amplified toxic material on the platform, as well as how it could be used.

Senators attempted time and again to push the firms to provide more information for researchers to investigate the safety and wellness of their platforms as well as support for parts of any future privacy legislation.

In a series of hearings, Senators pressed YouTube’s Ms. Miller on whether the firms would allow independent researchers access to algorithms, data sets and data privacy practices. Blumenthal: “Yes or no?” When asked if the companies would let independent academics examine algorithms, data sets and data privacy procedures, Miller answered: “It really depends on the topic.”

The representatives of the three tech companies also faced questions about ways that live streaming could expose minors to dangerous or inappropriate content. “Do you plan to adopt any mandatory minimum criteria for social media sites with respect to protecting children?” Blumenthal asked. The companies made clear they are not responsible for what is posted on their platforms.

In September, YouTube announced that it would prohibit videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories as well as tutorials on how to assemble firearms. In the past week, YouTube has also taken down a video by Gab AI, an anti-Semitic social media site.

“If that’s the case, then YouTube’s response indicates clear hesitation if not outright resistance to providing access,” Mr. Blumenthal responded.

Similarly, Ms. Miller seemed hesitant to commit to aspects of possible privacy legislation such as a planned amendment to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. She was unsure whether YouTube would support a ban on targeted advertising for children or limitations on adding “likes” or comments on videos, even as she acknowledged that the firm currently did not allow such features on children’s content

The companies frequently claimed that they were already implementing the sorts of actions necessary by future legislation.

“Regulation is essential, but given the speed at which technology develops and the pace with which regulation may be implemented, regulation alone can’t do it all,” Ms. Stout said.

Lawmakers fought back against the CEOs’ claims that their companies were exceptional in terms of youth safety online.

“I understand from your testimony that your argument is: we’re not Facebook,” Blumenthal said. “Being unique from Facebook isn’t a defense. That bar has been lowered to an all-time low.”

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Bitcoin Drops to $40,000 and Ether Plummets. Russia Is on the verge of passing a cryptocurrency ban.

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A daily briefing on what you need to know in the day ahead, including commentary from Barron’s and MarketWatch writers.

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Russia’s central bank has proposed a ban on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin that would go into effect next year. As of Friday, the cryptocurrency dropped below the psychologically important $40,000 mark, according to reports.

The Bitcoin price fell 8% to nearly $39,000 in the last 24 hours, according to CoinDesk data. Over the same period, Ether dropped 10%, now valued at $2800.

Following the South Korean government’s decision to ban local cryptocurrency trading, Bitcoin and Ethereum tumbled by about 14 percent each. Bitcoin Cash dropped more than 5%, and Ripple suffered a drop of over 6%. The value of numerous other cryptocurrencies fell in tandem, including “meme” coins Dogecoin and Shiba Inu.

Russia, which is home to one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency mining communities, may soon outlaw the creation of digital assets. While a prohibition on trading and engaging in transactions with cryptocurrencies in Russia is also being considered, only owning or keeping Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies would be permitted.

According to the Bank of Russia, cryptocurrencies’ increasing popularity poses risks to Russian retail investors, financial stability, and threats linked with cryptocurrency use for unlawful purposes.

In Russia, Bitcoin and other digital currencies are quite popular. According to the central bank, the amount of crypto transactions made by citizens every year is worth around $5 billion.

“The Russian ruble has been declining in value for the past two decades, making Bitcoin an appealing investment for many Russians throughout that time span,” according to Oanda’s Edward Moya.

Rough, Russia

The Russian Central Bank on Friday targeted digital assets, sending Bitcoin, Ether, and other cryptocurrencies tumbling.

The Bank of Russia has recommended prohibiting the use of cryptocurrencies in trade and transactions, including the closure of cryptocurrency exchanges on Russian soil.

Central banks in various countries are also attempting to bring cryptocurrency regulation into place. The country’s central bank said that “mining, which consumes unneeded electricity,” should be banned as well.

Some experts think a statutory ban may be ineffective now that the Bank of Russia’s proposal is on its way to parliament.

“I don’t think they’ll be able to completely stop crypto trading in Russia,” according to GlobalBlock’s Marcus Sotiriou.

“We’ve seen China attempt to ban cryptocurrency trading on multiple occasions in recent years, but China is still one of the most active nations when it comes to cryptocurrency. Decentralized finance, which is made possible by cryptocurrencies, is difficult to track and stop.”

While the news from Russia has dampened enthusiasm, crypto prices as a whole have been on a slide recently. Since the start of the year, Bitcoin and Ether have missed out on record highs by 30%, trading at around 30% below their all-time highs.

To a large extent, risk assets’ market sentiment is to blame.

In practice, because Bitcoin and other digital assets are theoretically supposed to be divorced from traditional financial markets, they have shown themselves to be associated with other high-growth, risk-sensitive bets such as many technology stocks.

The Nasdaq Composite, which is heavily weighted with technology firms, dropped more than 10% below its all-time high in mid-November this week, according to the technical indicators.

The Federal Reserve’s increased interest rate increases and the passage of tax legislation that lowers corporate rates have pushed investors to sell high-growth companies.

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How Twitter may help take NFTs mainstream

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Twitter began allowing select users to use non-fungible tokens as profile images today, just four months after hinting at the possibility. Subscribers to Twitter Blue, which costs $2.99 per month, may now link their crypto wallet and display any NFTs they possess in their profile. These people are easily distinguished from those who

In September, when Twitter first brought up the subject, I suggested that utilizing NFTs might help the technology go mainstream. Users have already created the hashtag, @ mention, and retweet; by displaying their (unauthenticated) NFTs via profile pictures on platforms such as CryptoPunks, Bored Apes, and other popular collectives

Twitter’s introduction of NFT profiles was met with harsh criticism, owing to the polarizing nature of blockchain-based projects in general. The technology does not live up to its own promises: verifying ownership or decentralizing power. (For the most part, NFTs today do not encode the owned media on the blockchain; instead, they provide proof of ownership. ) When considered in this light, Twitter might be accused of legitimizing a technology that exposes users to theft, fraud, and other risks.

Meanwhile, millions of prospective buyers are about to see those hexagons on a daily basis and inquire why the fuss is happening. The question is whether Twitter — and all of the other platforms racing to integrate NFTs — can brute-force digital collectibles into popularity, despite furious objections from naysayers.

We’ve already had an early test of that question in the gaming business. Several prominent developers have revealed plans to include NFTs into their games, in the form of digital items, throughout the last several months. The headlines usually include words like “explosive reaction.”

Gamers’ gripes are easy to understand. The gaming business has moved from a model of charging you a one-time fee to own a game to one in which you may be charged for it several times (to download new expansions, or buy cosmetic items); or continually (by subscriptions). Loot boxes, which give players things at random, have

Some have also claimed that if you aren’t ready to get into the nitty-gritty of technical details, then why even bother? Playing a game in the future might require connecting a crypto wallet, paying hefty fees just to trade on the market, buying rare digital goods, and then protecting them from robbers — so it’s not clear how this would make

And so, after Ubisoft revealed a plan to include NFTs in its action game Ghost Recon Breakpoint, it was roasted. Square Enix, the creator of the Final Fantasy series and others, came under fire for implying that it might possibly provide crypto tokens in the future. Zynga, a mobile gaming firm known for building games around making frequent

For would-be NFT platform operators, the backlash represents more than a string of bad public relations cycles. The metaverse, as we have taken to calling the next version of the internet in Silicon Valley, is based on video games as the device that will entice people to buy augmented and virtual reality headsets. The concept, as Mark Zuckerberg explained it to me last summer, is that you’ll buy virtual clothes or other digital goods as NFTs and use them from VR experience to VR experience, starting with games.

If players despise NFTs for all time, the metaverse will change dramatically. Developer teams that have raised billions of dollars based on the promise that games would bring trillions of people onto web3, such as the team behind Axie Infinity, will suffer.

It’s not just players who are skeptical. In a survey published today by the Game Developers Conference, 70 percent of studios said they have “no interest” in NFTs. -Here’s  Jay Peters’ column at The Verge:

“When asked how they felt about the possibility of cryptocurrency or NFTs in games, a few called it ‘the future of gaming,’” the survey said. “However, a vast majority of respondents spoke out against both practices — noting their potential for scams, overall monetization concerns, and the environmental impact.”

Many quotes directly from developers were scathing. “How this hasn’t been identified as a pyramid scheme is beyond me,” one wrote. “I’d rather not endorse burning a rainforest down to confirm someone ‘owns’ a jpeg,” said another. “Burn ‘em to the ground. Ban everyone involved in them. I work at an NFT company currently and am quitting to get away from it,” said another.

Of course, another way to interpret this information is that almost one-third of today’s game developers are at least interested in NFT integration. However, for the time being, they are in the minority.

We’ve already seen how the NFT market will change, but now we’re going to look at what that might mean for Twitter. There are some crucial distinctions between games and tweets: gamers despise NFTs because they believe they may be compelled to buy them; on Twitter, purchasing and displaying any digital art you acquire would be optional. And while

Today I saw reactions of two kinds: from crypto skeptics, dunking on hexagons; and, from crypto enthusiasts, dunking on people who are mad at hexagons.

Who will win?

Technology may be so reviled from the outset that it is forced outside of polite society. Inquire with anyone who wore Google Glass into a bar in 2013 about how that turned out.

But, sometimes — and this is especially evident on Twitter -— things are ridiculed into legitimacy. (People who study extremism have a name for the technique by which jokes are frequently used to smuggle ideas into the mainstream: irony poisoning.) And crypto enthusiasts have been excellent at co-opting insults hurled at them into badges of pride. When critics

It’s possible that Twitter will be the last to try and take NFTs mainstream. On Thursday, The Financial Times stated that Meta is planning to allow customers to generate and sell NFTs on its platforms. Google now has a blockchain department, and it’s likely YouTube will be included in its strategy.

It’s far too soon to tell how effective any of these initiatives will be, which are still in the early stages. However, we may regard Twitter’s hexagonal release as the day when NFTs became accessible to a broad, mainstream audience.

We’ll have to wait now to see whether the general public actually desires them.

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The selloff has quickened, and risk aversion is hammering bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

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Bitcoin (BTC-USD) fell over 9% to below $40,000 on Friday, with the rest of the cryptocurrency market following suit as risk aversion drove a downdraft for assets before the Federal Reserve’s widely anticipated rate hikes.

The latest plunge in Bitcoin’s price has been aided by the Federal Reserve’s decision to halt interest rate hikes, which have brought China and other emerging markets’ stock market crashes closer. On Friday, the Nasdaq fell into a deeper nadir, after Netflix (NFLX) disappointed investors with stronger-than-expected subscriber growth.

The price of bitcoin has fallen below a crucial technical barrier, dropping below $40,000, where bulls and bears have been battling for days. It’s the first time that bitcoin has broken through this psychological barrier.

In another report, newswire and cryptocurrency site CoinDesk stated that bitcoin’s price was currently trading at around $6,900.

Ether (ETH-USD), one of the most popular digital coin transactions since the non-fungible token (NFT) craze began, fell more than 12% and is now valued at $2,814.

“More rate hikes is generally going to cause more agony for risk-on assets, and especially Bitcoin,” said Chris Matta, president of 3iQ Digital Assets US. The leading digital currency has historically benefited from expansionary monetary policy, but expectations for a more hawkish Fed are now punishing it.

According to Matta, even if some investors still view Bitcoin as an inflationary hedge, the Fed’s decision to curb inflation “isn’t going to make it the top of their list” for many crypto traders.

Other factors include the uncertain environment for crypto regulation and the top-heavy derivative market fueled by speculation. On the derivatives side, roughly 200,000 holdings were liquidated in the last 24 hours, totaling $745 million in losses, according to Coinglass.

Brad Matta, director of state and local research at Phoenix Capital Research, said the sales reduced volatility by boosting overall supply. He told CNBC that derivatives did not cause this decline.

According to data from The Block Research, for the previous two weeks, most of the financing rates in crypto futures have been on the short-seller side.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding aggressive rate hikes at this time, I think we could very well see additional selling, bringing Bitcoin down to $35,000 or even lower. It’s not yet finished.” Matta concluded.

The sale of reserve assets by Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and cryptocurrency miners might lead to additional sell-offs in the sector, according to Naclari, since they may have to sell off more of their funds to meet operational expenses.

According to Coingecko, OlympusDAO’s cryptocurrency (OHM-USD) has dropped more than 30% since December 1, from a market capitalization of $4.3 billion to just over $827 million.

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