With help from Derek Robertson
On Saturday, as King Charles III was proclaimed King in London, crypto backers were toasting a different sort of succession in another corner of the Commonwealth.
In Canada, Pierre Poilievre, a vocal champion of blockchain technology, was elected leader of the Conservative Party, putting him at the head of the opposition to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.
The 43-year-old has said Canadians should have access to Bitcoin as an alternative to the official currency, opposed the development of a central bank digital currency, and proclaimed his intention to make the country a hub for blockchain businesses. In March, he used Bitcoin to buy a shawarma from an Ontario restaurant whose owners have embraced the digital currency. He also owns shares of a Canadian Bitcoin ETF, according to his personal financial disclosures.
Poilievre’s ascension makes him one the world’s most visible political leaders to have embraced crypto, placing him alongside the likes of El Salvador’s authoritarian President Nayib Bukele. It also cements ties between crypto and the populist right, which has provided a disproportionate share of support for the technology.
Earlier this year, Poilievre distinguished himself from rivals within his party by backing Canadian truckers who staged disruptive protests against the country’s strict Covid lockdowns. That episode illustrated crypto’s political consequences: When the Canadian government froze bank accounts associated with the protests, the movement’s supporters began using cryptocurrency instead.
Positions like his support for crypto and the truckers, as well as a vow to never send ministers to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, have allowed Poilievre to channel populist discontent.
But in a country that puts a premium on civility, they have also provided the Liberals an opening to paint the opposition leader as “reckless.”
“Anyone who followed Mr. Poilievre’s advice could have had their life savings destroyed,” the Liberal Party’s communications director, Parker Lund, told DFD, citing the opposition leader’s crypto endorsement.
For crypto’s English-speaking backers, Poilievre’s election provides something of a consolation prize after Liz Truss defeated an avowed crypto proponent, Rishi Sunak, in the Tory’s leadership contest last week, securing her place as the United Kingdom’s prime minister. (As for the UK’s new king, in 2019, then-Prince Charles, after appearing momentarily befuddled by shouted questions about blockchain, called it a “very interesting development.”)
But those who want to see Canada turned into a crypto haven will likely have to wait for their chance. The country’s next federal elections, when Poilievre is expected to challenge Trudeau, aren’t scheduled to occur until 2025.
As for Poilievre’s place as crypto’s reigning political poster child, that should be secure at least until November, when pro-crypto Republican Senate candidates like 36-year-old Blake Masters in Arizona and 38-year-old J.D. Vance in Ohio will be on the ballot in the U.S. midterms, providing them a chance to usurp that title.
It’s hard enough to dodge scams on the internet, and the metaverse could be no different.
A pair of forensic accountants at the Université du Québec à Montréal recently examined some of the potential risks on the nascent virtual platform, citing the ease and lack of transparency around data tracking, the well-known risks surrounding the integration of crypto and NFTs into the virtual world, and the use of biometric data for marketing without permission.
They also present some potential solutions for both government regulators and private actors, including:
- A comprehensive “Metaverse Act” to cover the types of unique transactions and interactions that occur in a virtual space
- Requiring private companies to disclose their metaverse risk mitigation efforts
- Cross-platform regulations that would set explicit, shared “community standards” for users
- Creating a more robust mechanism for whistleblowing than the ones that currently exist in tech
“Doing (x), but for the metaverse” might sound a little bit like reinventing the wheel. But with the repeated failures of the systems meant to prevent fraud and other malfeasance on the internet as it currently exists, it’s not surprising that watchdogs in academia are putting out advance warnings for its next potential iteration. — Derek Robertson
One of the most touted features of Web3 is the sense of “community” it fosters, allowing like-minded techies and entrepreneurs to build their own digital ecosystems and even forms of institutional governance.
What happens when that goes terribly, terribly wrong?
Vox’s Rebecca Jennings reported yesterday on the rise and fall of “Launch House” — a communal living space for startup founders, many in the Web3 space, that quickly devolved into anarchy and alleged predation. Female members of the cohort alleged sexual harassment and assault; police visited the property to investigate a physical assault; members accused the community’s founders of a flagrant dereliction of responsibility and oversight. (Launch House denies the allegations.)
Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led a $12 million round of funding for Launch House in February of this year — a vote of confidence in its ability to build community. The fundamentally libertarian promise of the “decentralized” internet — that it will enable communities to form largely independent of traditional institutional oversight, effectively governing themselves — is, like our stodgy old liberal social contract, only as viable as those who take on the responsibility of that governance. — Derek Robertson
- A prototype of Meta’s new VR headset has leaked… allegedly because someone left it in a hotel room.
- The FTC is getting more proactive about AI regulation.
- The future of self-driving cars might involve persistent human interaction.
- Democratic Senators have sent a letter to Meta grilling the company on how it’s fighting crypto scams.
- John Deere is rolling out a fleet of self-driving tractors this year.
Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Konstantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.
Ben Schreckinger covers tech, finance and politics for POLITICO; he is an investor in cryptocurrency.