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TruBlo Newsletter #14: Policies and actions needed to fight ransomware • Documentary: Degrees of uncertainty • EU vs. Apple over App Store fees • Blockchain land registry in Rwanda

TruBlo Newsletter #14: Policies and actions needed to fight ransomware • Documentary: Degrees of uncertainty • EU vs. Apple over App Store fees • Blockchain land registry in Rwanda

TruBlo Project Update

We are getting closer to NGI Forum 2021 on May 18-19, 2021. Please join us for presentations and discussions. Register NGI Forum 2021

Updates this week:


Don’t ignore ransomware

The way this happens: Attackers hack the IT system of a company, a police force or a even hospital. Then the only way to regain access to the system is by paying huge amounts of money.

Despite being a thread for some time, the situation around ransomware has not improved. There is a lack of policies and actions for the active prevention of this threat.

From an interview in The New York Times:

What is the United States doing to stop or slow ransomware? We’re not trying very hard. The United States is the most targeted country by cybercriminals and nation-states, but we’re not acting like it. We’re mostly outlining guidelines for companies and government agencies to prevent ransomware attacks and hoping for the best. It’s not working.


Related: How the US United States Lost to Hackers LINK ($)

Newsmax, a conservative news channel, posts an apology

The news outlet had accused an employee of Dominion Voting Systems of manipulating results in the 2020 US presidential election. The person received a wave of insulting messages, including death threats. Now the news outlet published an apology.


Degrees of Uncertainty: Documentary

How sure are scientists about global warming? Why are they coming to current conclusions and predictions?

“Degrees of uncertainty” is a data-driven documentary by Neil Halloran. The video educates about certainty and uncertainty occurring around complex issues.



EU vs. Apple: App store sales fee results in antitrust

The key point is that a competing music service like Spotify has no alternative as to paying a fee of 30% on all transactions, if it wants to offer a music subscription using devices by Apple, such as iPhones, iPads or computers.

From The Guardian:

“By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition,” Margrethe Vestager said. “This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App Store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”

This is the first step of an EU antitrust investigation. It is likely to take years until this issue will go through the courts.


Microsoft planning to reduce fees to 12 per cent

Confidential documents submitted in the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games case reveal that Microsoft has been planning to cut Microsoft Store on Xbox fees to just 12 per cent.

Microsoft reducing the Microsoft Store on Xbox cut for games to just 12 per cent could be a big deal as this would mean that game developers would get 88 per cent of the revenue share. All other major stores take a 30 per cent cut on game sales, including Sony’s PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s online store.


Clubhouse popular in the Middle East

The social networking app is booming in authoritarian countries, where users are speaking freely about otherwise taboo topics.


NewsBreak app successful with local news

Protocol reports about NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app that uses Artificial Intelligence to find and display local news for users:

News Break has succeeded using tactics imported from China, where news delivered via algorithm — a practice pioneered by ByteDance’s Toutiao — has flourished.

An “interest-based engine” powered by AI selects articles readers are likely to enjoy based on past engagement.

Content aggregators like News Break aren’t just winning in the U.S. market. Opera News, owned by Beijing Kunlun Tech, and Scooper News, developed by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings, have both made significant inroads into Africa and Europe.



Medici Land Governance partners with Rwanda

Medici Land Governance(MLG) has partnered with the Government of Rwanda to pilot a project that aims to make land transfers a paperless process. For the pilot, MLG has built a land transaction platform on blockchain called Ubutaka, which will be integrated with Rwanda’s existing land registry infrastructure.

Inefficient and inaccurate land registry systems are a common challenge in many developing countries. The loss of paperwork often prevents landowners from proving ownership, making people hesitant to invest in developing properties. Additionally, the lack of standardization and auditing in land management leaves the door open to corruption and fraud.

MLG already has projects in Mexico and Liberia.


Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway is highly critical of Bitcoin

“I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth, nor do I like shuffling out a few extra billions and billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air.”


Blockchain technology simplifying cross-border payments

From the World Economic Forum:

It’s no secret that the cross-border payments landscape using traditional rails is fraught with fees, hurdles and delay.

Individual senders incur outsized fees for the billions of dollars sent in personal remittances every year.

Part of the problem is that systems are not interoperable. To send money to different corners of the world without blockchain, a whole patchwork has been haphazardly knitted together over the decades to achieve some semblance of financial interoperability between financial institutions, correspondent banks and money transfer operators along the value chain.


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This was issue #14 of TruBlo NEWSLETTER • Trustable content on future blockchains.
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TruBlo Newsletter #13: Apple Privacy Transparency coming • How Substack tries to lure well-known journalists • A look at the slander industry • Profiles of blockchain platforms

TruBlo Newsletter #13: Apple Privacy Transparency coming • How Substack tries to lure well-known journalists • A look at the slander industry • Profiles of blockchain platforms

Subscribe to the weekly newsletter here:
Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash
Newsletter #12: Twitter investigates recommendation algorithms • Instagram tests dropping “Like”-Buttons.

Newsletter #12: Twitter investigates recommendation algorithms • Instagram tests dropping “Like”-Buttons.

Newsletter #11: TruBlo project update • Carrots, not sticks to quell misinformation and more…

Newsletter #11: TruBlo project update • Carrots, not sticks to quell misinformation and more…

TruBlo Project Update

Next steps for Trublo open call #1: If you participated, when will you get results? We published an article on the TruBlo website, to provide an overview of the process. The quick answer to the key question: Participants can expect a notification on April 30, 2021. More details: [TruBlo Website](

Updates this week:


Trust in tech declining, survey finds

 ”Trust in tech — including companies specializing in AI, VR, 5G and the internet of things — fell all around the world last year, the Edelman Trust Barometer found in a massive survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries.”

Procter & Gamble accused of collaboration with Chinese advertising

Apple aims to change how data can be collected for advertising purposes, specifically how profiles of users can be created. Many advertisers and other platforms are opposing the change. One unexpected result: The US company Procter & Gamble teaming up trade groups in China.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal:

”Procter & Gamble Co. helped develop a technique being tested in China to gather iPhone data for targeted ads, a step intended to give companies a way around Apple Inc.’s new privacy tools, according to people familiar with the matter. […]
The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising Association to develop the new technique, which would use a technology called device fingerprinting.” LINK

Blockchain for trustable food system – from seafood to grain

The Conversation: “With global-scale food systems such as seafood, nearly 40 per cent of which is traded globally, data transparency and traceability through technologies like blockchain are important for socially and environmentally conscious decision making and to facilitate trust among stakeholders. Blockchain technologies can be used to consolidate information on the quality of the seed, track how crops grow and record the journey once it leaves the farm.” LINK


New motivation: ”To quell misinformation, use carrots – not just sticks”

An article by neuroscientist Tali Sharot published in “Nature” argues for a fundamental change in how users should be rewarded when posting content.

Quote: “Most readers have felt an ego boost when their post received ‘likes’. Such engagement also results in followers, which can help people secure lucrative deals. Thus, if a certain type of content generates high engagement, people will post more content like it. Here is the conundrum: fake news generates more retweets and likes than do reliable posts, spreading 6–20 times faster.”

What could be a solution?

”At the moment, users are rewarded when their post appeals to the masses — even if it’s of poor quality. What would happen if users were rewarded for reliability and accuracy?” LINK

Facebook criticised for being unresponsive to reports of manipulative content, investigation reveals

The Guardian published findings of an investigation of how the social platform handled manipulative content, specifically outside of the US. A former employee says that Facebook was often inactive, even when warned about such manipulative content.

“There is a lot of harm being done on Facebook that is not being responded to because it is not considered enough of a PR risk to Facebook,” said Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook who worked within the company’s “integrity” organization to combat inauthentic behaviour. “The cost isn’t borne by Facebook. It’s borne by the broader world as a whole.” LINK


Revenge of the Winklevii

Forbes reports at length about how Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are emerging as investors in several blockchain and crypto projects.

A dozen years after they settled with Zuckerberg for $65 million in Facebook stock and cash, the Winklevii, as they are widely known, have emerged as leaders of a technological movement whose core operating principle involves digitizing the records of all assets globally, decentralizing control and cutting out gatekeepers—including Facebook.

The two are now owners of a holding company called “Gemini Space Station”, which “owns their crypto exchange and Nifty Gateway”. Forbes reports that the twins invested in 25 digital asset startups. LINK

A notable uptick of interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain initiatives

The rise of Bitcoin value is driving interest in trading of cryptocurrency trading. In parallel, we see new corporate projects for blockchain. While the two areas are not directly related, the financial market seems to validate blockchain technology, to an extend.

Selected examples:

  • Trading app Robinhood says 9.5 million users traded crypto in Q1 2021. This is an increase of 458% related to just 1,7 million traders in Q4/2020. LINK
  • The Wall Street Journal has a special how “GameStop, and Bitcoin Renewed a Push to Digitize the Stock Market”. A lot of speculation mixed with enthusiasm, along with potential volatility and other risks. LINK
  • This week it’s the second virtual edition of the European Blockchain Convention, due to the pandemic. It is worth your time to scroll through the (long) list of attendees – you’ll find a mix of blockchain start-ups, representatives from larger companies and many EU officials. Just the visual scroll will give you an idea of interest in all things blockchain. LINK
  • And finally: Drivers of the new Fiat 500 electric vehicle will earn coins if they drive sustainably:

”Stellantis and UK-based startup Kiri Technologies will use blockchain rewards to encourage sustainable driving behaviour. Stellantis is the result of a recent merger between Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler and owns 16 car brands, including Peugeot, Citroen, Chrysler and Fiat. The rewards initiative will be conducted under Stellantis e-mobility program. Drivers of the New 500 Fiat, a fully electric car, will be awarded KiriCoins, which can be spent in the Kiri marketplace.”

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Newsletter #10: Digital signatures • Banning dark patterns • BitClout controversy

Newsletter #10: Digital signatures • Banning dark patterns • BitClout controversy

TruBlo Newsletter #10

March 29, 2021

TruBlo Project Update

Open Call #1 is closed. If you found out too late, no worries: The next call will start in May 2021. The date will be published via the website, in this newsletter and on social media. Follow us on Twitter.

Updates this week:


Pandemic boosts the market for digital signatures

Software for digital identities and digital signatures is in high demand. What has changed?

“The conversations five to six years ago were all about: ‘Is this legal? Is it legally binding?’” Ashley Still, the general manager of digital media at Adobe, told Protocol. “The conversations today are: ‘How does this fit into my overall infrastructure?”, via Protocol

Three examples:


“DocuSign, the industry leader, just reported a 57% increase in sales over the past year to $431 million. Adobe Sign had triple-digit year-over-year user growth in June, July, August and September last year, and high double-digit growth in the other months.”


“The key to Notarize’s growth is more than just its core stamp and sign function. It’s the platform’s ability to navigate regulatory compliance… Trust is key as Notarize continues to onboard major companies like Adobe, Zillow, and Transamerica, and experience skyrocketing growth over the past year in financial services (up 324%), auto insurance (up 219%) and real estate (up 835%).”

Jumio (the company just raised $150 million)

“I think the big thing is that the foundation of the internet is identity, not anonymity,” said CEO Robert Prigge in an interview, who said the trend of digital transformation has spurred that change. “It’s been a big shift over the last couple of years. People wanted to originally hide behind anonymity, but now identify is the keystone. Whether it’s online banking or social networks, you need to be able to establish trust remotely.” LINK

Identity over anonymity. Is that the future? It is worth thinking a bit more about this statement.

California bans “dark patterns”

Have you ever tried to unsubscribe from a digital service and found it difficult? Likely it was not your fault at all, but a “dark pattern” on the website.

“Dark patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn’t mean to, like buying or signing up for something.”

California recently banned the use of such patterns. In Europe, such practices often violate GDPR or are an attempt to trick users into giving up their privacy.

The term was coined in 2010 by Harry Brignull, an expert in user experience. He created a website with examples and a “Hall of Shame”.

The challenge: There is quite a number of such layout tricks.

Three examples:

  • Indicating a high demand for an item or limited availability (“Only three left in stock”).
  • Forced enrollment: Before being able to enter a website, the user must provide private information.
  • Making it difficult or impossible to cancel a subscription or to delete an account. This practice is described as a “roach hotel”.

A 2019 study found that one in ten e-commerce websites uses such practices. LINK


BitClout: Controversy from the start

The idea was to create a social network that could not be censored and where people could follow prominent figures. So far it did not go well.

“When new crypto projects launch, the response is usually relentless cheerleading from Crypto Twitter. That wasn’t the case with BitClout. As details of the project began trickling out, including its decision to add people’s image without permission, a backlash swelled.” LINK

Facebook has 35.000 people tackling misinformation

Just an indicator of how big the problem of false content and fake accounts is.

“Facebook Inc said on Monday it took down 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December 2020 and that it had over 35,000 people working on tackling misinformation on its platform. The company also removed more than 12 million pieces of content about COVID-19 and vaccines that global health experts flagged as misinformation”. LINK

Twitter is asking: Should presidents be allowed to tweet?

The company started a survey in 14 languages to get opinions from around the world. The questionnaire is open until April 12, 2021. LINK


Blockchain-based COVID passport now live in the state of New York

”The pass will be used to confirm an individual’s recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination to help fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues.”

The technology is provided by IBM.


Chainalysis doubles valuation to $2 billion

Chainanalysis announced new funding of $100 million last week. This means the value of the company has doubled in four months. Clear sign more transparency and an overview of the crypto markets are in demand.

Founded in 2014, Chainalysis helps governments and private sector companies detect and prevent the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in illicit activities like money laundering with its investigations and compliance software. The New York-based company competes with Ciphertrace, which is based in California, as well as London-headquartered firm Elliptic. LINK

Blockchain 3.0 in China

In the past decade, China’s blockchain market has undergone two periods of development. In blockchain 1.0, pioneering firms primarily focused on digital currency applications; in blockchain 2.0, visionary enterprises and vendors began to gain business value by piloting blockchain technologies. Since the second half of 2019, the prioritization of enterprise customers, the technology progress made by tech leaders, and the government’s pragmatic measures have been driving the Chinese market into the age of blockchain 3.0. It is when blockchain adoption gains momentum in all major verticals.”

Some optimism here. China wants to get ahead. But it is easy to imagine serious disruptions, which then might result in a rollback.

But the separation of blockchain adoption into three phases is helpful and could be applied to judge development in other world regions, too. LINK

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This was issue #10 of TruBlo NEWSLETTER • Trustable content on future blockchains.
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TruBlo Project. TruBlo is an EU funded research project, c/o Deutsche Welle, Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 3, 53113 Bonn. Contact:

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Newsletter #9: Tech Trends Report 2021 • Two banks, two approaches • AI for privacy • Free book: Token economy

Newsletter #9: Tech Trends Report 2021 • Two banks, two approaches • AI for privacy • Free book: Token economy

March 19, 2021

Thank You!

Today at 17:00 (on March 19, 2021) is the deadline for the TruBlo open call #1.

The consortium wants to express gratitude for:

  • Strong support by the other European NGI (Next generation internet) projects
  • The F6S platform for helping to manage the open call
  • Great participation by many smart people from all over Europe.

What will happen now? A group of independent reviewers will start to evaluate. A total of ten projects will receive funding. We will keep you updated with this newsletter and on our website.

Updates this week:


Tech Trends 2021

The Future Today Institute published its annual “Tech Trends Report”. For the 2021 edition the team analyzed over 500 technology and science trends. There is hardly a better, bias-free source to understand where technology is heading. The report is entirely free. To make it easier to digest this year’s edition it is published in 12 separate, smaller reports.

Direct links:

2021 Tech Trends Summary: A quick overview. Good pointers to decide whether to go deeper into any of the topical reports.

2021 Tech Trends Report: Blockchain and Fintech – Covering the future of blockchain, cryptocurrencies + fintech. Plus use cases and applications.

2021 Tech Trends Report: New Realities – Synthetic content and media, deepfakes, algorithmic content generation, streaming, AR/DR/VR/MR and journalism.

2021 Tech Trends Report: Privacy and Security – Covering privacy and security. Plus a list of major breaches and a glossary for execs.

2021 FTI Tech Trends: Overview and all reports On this page you will find all twelve reports with download links.

Opinion: Why linking to news articles is not the problem

Written by Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, co-editor of “Boing Boing” and an influential voice on the internet.

He thinks publishers fighting search engines over snippets and trying to get paid for this are missing the larger point. The big pot of gold is elsewhere.

As summarized by TechMeme:

Publishers should focus on how Google and Facebook steal via ad fraud and price-rigging rather than on the nonsense idea that snippets and referrals are crimes”.


Two banks, two approaches

What is the future of digital services, specifically for banking, money transfers, savings?

Firstly: “TechCrunch” about Kuda.

  • Kuda is a start-up, a “neo-bank” currently operating in Nigeria, with strongly growing number of users. In the future, the company aims to bring reliable mobile banking to people across the whole African continent.
  • Why it matters: The article is interesting, as it describes how Kuda operates and what it offers specifically. In short: Kuda is focused on making things easier for people when handling money. It is a reminder that in large parts of the access to banking is not a given. Note that the word “blockchain” is not even mentioned. LINK
  • In contrast, follow the link to another banking article, this time about the strategy of Goldman Sachs and how they try to connect to the world of crypto. There is a striking contrast here.LINK

If you find the time, read both texts and compare.

Contents, a marketing technology company from Milan, raises €5 million

As an indicator how automatic, AI-driven analysis advances.

Contents uses AI tech to analyse data, with a particular focus on trend discovery and creates multilingual content aimed at end-users as well as search engines. A SaaS platform (Software as a Service, sic), Contents provides content creation and distribution tools including the aforementioned trend analysis, along with automatic content generation without human intervention via natural language generation (NLG). To date, Contents counts 100,000 users around the globe, and processes over 3 billion data points per month, with 3 million e-commerce outlets monitored per hour. LINK

Opinion: Why and how artificial intelligence (AI) could be a strong weapon to protect privacy

Surprising, but interesting: Using AI to create a “silhouette” of a person to secure privacy.

“Instead of using someone’s personal data, companies can train AI models to anonymize the information and create what’s called differential privacy datasets,” said Francesco DiCerbo, research lead for AI privacy at SAP Security Research. “We can add random noise to the details about single individuals while preserving the overall statistical properties of the population. Think of it as seeing the silhouette of a person you can’t identify.”



Book: Token Economy

This links to a great book to learn why about tokens are important.

“Tokens are for the Web3 what websites were for the WWW in the 1990s. While it has become easy to create a token with just a few lines of code, the understanding of how to apply these tokens is still vague.”

This work by Shermin Voshmgir has evolved over several years. She provides not simply a write-up of recent trends, but a much deeper view of what tokens are and how we can use them in the future.

“Token Economy: How the Web3 reinvents the internet” is available in print or as a free to use wiki on GitHub. LINK

Five skills that you need to become a blockchain developer

The short version:

  • Cryptography
  • Smart Contracts
  • Data Structures
  • Blockchain Architecture
  • Web Development


Related: 7 free courses to learn blockchain in 2021

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