On Dec. 23, thousands of YouTubers received emails from the video giant notifying them that their crypto-related videos had suddenly been deleted from the platform.
The ban, which lasted about four days before YouTube began reinstating videos, impacted YouTubers whose channels reached thousands of subscribers, as well as those with smaller audiences.
Unsurprisingly, many of the YouTubers impacted have now turned to decentralized video platforms to share their content. Creating engaging and informative blockchain and cryptocurrency videos has become a source of income for many of these individuals, which is why it’s important for them to have a reliable outlet to utilize.
CEO and Founder of LBRY, Jeremy Kauffman, stated “Following the YouTube ban, access over the last 24 hours to LBRY has increased nearly 100% day-over-day.”
LBRY, a decentralized content sharing and publishing platform created in 2016, uses blockchain technology to allow content creators to store and download content in a peer-to-peer manner.
LBRY is also entirely open-source, meaning developers can contribute to the code that powers the platform. “I deeply believe in free speech, open source, and personal choice. LBRY is a reflection of all of those values,” said Kauffman.
Moreover, unlike YouTube, which has stringent content policies in place, Kauffman explained that LBRY doesn’t have strict policies regarding what users share and publish.
“LBRY as a protocol doesn’t have policies on these things, just like HTTP or SMTP doesn’t have a policy on these things. However, as a U.S. company, we do have a content policy for what is allowed to be stored on our servers.”
Kauffman also noted that YouTube has recently been the platform’s “number one supporter,” as many YouTubers have migrated over to LBRY as the video giant continues to “enforce rules, arbitrary, ban or demonetize people for flimsy reasons, etc.” He further explained:
“Building a business or a following on YouTube is building on quicksand. YouTube regularly censors and bans creators, with capricious and arbitrary rules enforcement.”
YouTuber Omar Bham stated that he has been recommending LBRY since YouTube’s crypto-content ban:
“As far as decentralized platforms, I’ve been recommending LBRY. The syncing process is simple, rewards can be claimed for all sorts of actions, and data syncs itself without any input from me. That will remain the case for any future uploads – they automatically end up on LBRY as a backup. This is powerful, as I don’t need to worry about YouTube one day removing all my videos permanently. They’ll live on.”
While this may be the case, Kaufmann pointed out that speed is a challenge the platform has been experiencing, as blockchains are notoriously slow databases. He noted that LBRY has since built additional tools to both query and serve information much faster.
In addition to LBRY, Steemit, a blockchain-based blogging and social media website launched in 2016, has also caught the attention of many YouTubers. The platform has over 1 million registered users and uses the cryptocurrency STEEM to reward its users for publishing content.
Unlike LBRY, which is focused specifically on digital media, Steemit functions more like a decentralized version of Reddit, providing users with an entire social network. Although it may be different from YouTube, video sharing platform DTube is a decentralized video platform built on top of the STEEM blockchain that resembles YouTube in appearance.
Like other decentralized video platforms, DTube has no central servers — all the content is stored on the STEEM blockchain. As a result, video content on DTube is almost impossible to tamper with.
Internet attorney and anti-bullying activist, Andrew Rossow, stated that while a platforms such as DTube and LBRY seems to be very promising, it’s also important to consider certain grey areas that decentralized platforms might not address.
“Having a blockchain-enabled social media platform that is censorship-resistant is good — but, keeping in mind certain protections with respect to intellectual property, phishing, scams, and other grey areas need to be considered.”
But, is YouTube being responsible?
Ironically, YouTube’s chief executive, Susan Wojcicki, recently announced her goals for the platform in April, saying, “My top priority is responsibility.”
While this may be the case, YouTube has removed more than 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels since the company implemented changes to its content policies in June of this year.
According to a blog post, YouTube has been deleting violative content, highlighting authoritative content, reducing the spread of borderline content and rewarding trusted creators. Unfortunately, the platform has been removing more and more content that they personally think violates these policies — and cryptocurrency and blockchain have fallen into this category.
Is it legal to remove content without notifying creators?
Regarding the legality of removing content without notifying creators — or providing a valid reason as to why the content is being deleted — founder of Royse Law Firm and continuing studies instructor at Stanford University, Roger Royse, stated that it becomes a legal matter depending on the platform’s terms of service:
“As a legal matter, it all depends on what their terms of service allow. The large platforms are in a tough spot because there is so much legislative scrutiny on both their policies, as well as crypto. The SEC and other agencies have been notoriously hostile to crypto related businesses and they may view this as one more way for platforms to be regulated”.
Rossow also noted that although what YouTube has done may be legal, it’s not justifiable:
“Arguably, YouTube as a content provider has the authority and right to remove content that it feels violates its Terms of Service, and in so-doing, has the right to remove videos, even if it involves digital money or cryptocurrency.”
Yet according to Rossow, the problem for both content creators and YouTube is identifying and discerning what is “commercially viable” and what is “educational. He explained:
“The crypto videos that were recently removed did not involve violent or political content, or content harmful to children. Even applying the FTC’s recent guidelines with respect to COPPA compliance didn’t seem to be in much disarray. This incident, I would say is isolated and gives all content creators a reason to panic simply due to YouTube’s ignorance.”
SEC Votes On Faster Review Process
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it would be streamlining the application process for investment companies, potentially resulting in expedited crypto and blockchain firms operating in a “more efficient and less costly manner.” In a July 6 announcement on the SEC website, the Commission said it had voted to adopt rule amendments for an expedited review process for companies under the Investment Company Act. In addition, the SEC referred to a “new informal internal procedure” for any other applications that did not qualify for this expedited process.
The announcement said it made the changes for a “more efficient” application process, and to provide “additional certainty and transparency.” The SEC said granting such exemptions could provide “important economic benefits to funds and their shareholders.” “The application process under the Investment Company Act is an important component of our regulatory structure,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “The changes approved today will modernize and streamline this process, resulting in improved transparency, reduced costs, and a more efficient use of our staff’s resources.” As part of the rules under the Investment Company Act of 1940, any company applying for a listing with the SEC faces a number of challenges to operate legally. The SEC said these changes would be effective 270 days following their publication in the Federal Register.
The Commission has been very hesitant to sign off on Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), including that of New York-based WisdomTree. Arca Labs, running its ArCoin on the Ethereum blockchain, speculated that no platform will be available to trade its fund through any major securities exchange registered with the SEC. According to the new amendments, funds including EFTs that have required an exemption from the SEC in order to operate could qualify for an expedited review. The fund would need to file a third application “substantially identical” to others granted relief within three years. The SEC stated that in this case, the Commission will provide notice to an applicant within 45 days of the date of filing provided the company responds within 30 days. Reportedly, the review process for a typical IPO application with the SEC comprises three rounds of inquiries and lasts between one and two months. In January, Grayscale Bitcoin Trust became the first digital assets vehicle reporting to SEC standards following its application in November.
Philippine SEC Warns Public About Cryptocurrency Schemes
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines has warned the public against individuals and groups engaged in unauthorized crypto investments and trading, according to an announcement on July 1. The Philippine SEC warned those who were involved in crypto schemes could face a fine or 21 years of imprisonment or both. It explained that:
“A maximum fine of P5 million or imprisonment of 21 years or both await those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents of entities engaged in unauthorized investment schemes[…] The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, also punishes those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis arising from the COVID-19 outbreak to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts.”
The Philippine authorities also listed three unauthorized crypto Ponzi schemes, one of which uses a protocol based on Ethreum blockchain: Forsage, RCashOnline and The Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. According to the Philippine SEC, both Forsage and RCashOnline lack the necessary licenses to operate. Hence, they are not allowed to take investments from the public or issue investment contracts and other forms of securities. Forsage, the Philippine SEC said, is a crowdfunding platform based on the Ethreum blockchain and active income is generated depending on the number of referrals and membership fees someone gathers. Since it provides smart contracts, the Philippine SEC noted Forsage then provides an investment contract that has to be approved by the regulator. Forsage is also not in the list of virtual currency exchanges registered with the Philippine central bank. Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta Foundation, although it was registered with the SEC, it didn’t comply with its reportorial requirements and was revoked over 17 years ago.
All three warning projects have one thing in common: they are Ponzi schemes by nature. According to the statement, other than lacking the necessary licenses, Forsage’s compensation plan resembles a Ponzi scheme, where investors are paid using the contribution of new investors. RCashOnline relies heavily on recruiting members in exchange for high monetary rewards rather than on selling products. The SEC warned that if a company’s registration has been revoked, such as Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta Foundation, other than for the purpose of liquidation, any other activities are illegal.
Rumor That Russia Will Investigate an Allegedly Fraudulent TON Offering in UK
Shortly after lifting the country’s Telegram ban, Russian authorities began investigating potentially fraudulent offerings involving the company’s unlaunched token, Gram. The token was at one time meant to serve a new blockchain ecosystem known as the Telegram Open Network, or TON. Reports indicate that Russian prosecutors are set to investigate a British firm that allegedly sold fraudulent tokens related to Telegram’s terminated blockchain project. The news was reported on July 3 by the local news agency, Baza.io.
According to the report, the action was brought to a local investigative committee by “several Russian entrepreneurs” that claimed to have purchased $11.7 million in Gram tokens. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov officially announced closure of the TON project on May 12. At that time, the Russian investors reportedly attempted to terminate their contract with the British company. Allegedly having Russian roots itself, the unnamed British firm reportedly wrote off $1.5 million in commissions, having returned just $10.2 million to investors, according to Baza.
This news comes soon after Telegram apparently settled its long-running legal battle with American authorities over the company’s $1.7 billion initial coin offering, or ICO. The ICO involved roughly $400 million in investments from United States citizens. On June 26, the U.S. court’s final judgment required Telegram to return $1.2 billion to investors. Telegram purportedly has already repaid the amount, with some U.S. investors confirming that they received a 72% refund. This amount is in line with Telegram’s original reimbursement scheme.
Russia’s interest in Gram comes against the backdrop of some meaningful regulatory changes. After two years of unsuccessful efforts to block Telegram messenger in the country, Russian authorities suddenly decided to lift the ban on June 18. The decision came just a few weeks before Russia conducted a seven-day long constitutional vote — the results of which could potentially allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his 20-year rule until 2036.