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How Australia’s far right uses cryptocurrencies to monetise hate online | Cryptocurrencies

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There’s never been more ways to ask for money on the internet. For rightwing extremists looking to monetise hate, that can be a big opportunity – and the earning potential of these digital assets hasn’t gone unnoticed in Australia.

Earlier this year, I traced funding networks associated with a sample of Australian channels that share rightwing extremist content on the chat app Telegram, and found links to at least 22 online funding tools. These included donation requests via wallet addresses for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, monero, ethereum and litecoin.

Of course an interest in cryptocurrencies is not on its own indicative of racism or extremism, but a recent analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found a cohort of white supremacists largely originating from North America has likely generated “a substantial profit” from bitcoin by getting in early, giving them access to funds “that would almost certainly be unavailable to them without cryptocurrency”.

Controversial Canadian “alt-right” figure Stefan Molyneux, who denies being a white supremacist but was pushed off YouTube for his commentary about women and “scientific racism”, has received at least 1,250 bitcoin from supporters according to the SPLC (one Bitcoin was worth A$68,647 at the time of writing).

Australia’s far right takes notice

As was posted in March on a Telegram channel associated with Blair Cottrell, who was convicted by a Victorian court of inciting hatred of Muslims in 2017: “crypto is actually making a lot of our guys rich.”

While bitcoin may have created eye watering profits for “early-adopter” rightwing extremists, privacy coins like monero – which attempt to obscure the origin and destination of transactions – also appear to be increasingly embraced by far-right groups.

After the National Socialist Network’s Thomas Sewell was charged with a number of offences this year in connection with an alleged assault and an alleged armed robbery, there was a donation drive to cover the Australian’s legal fees. In December alone, support requests for both bitcoin and monero donations were shared into Telegram channels associated with US and Australian far-right livestreamers with tens of thousands of followers, as well as accounts linked to Australia’s anti-lockdown movement. Sewell is pleading not guilty to the charges.

Donation requests by the Australian far right – albeit for legal fees as well as content creation or lifestyle needs – can serve to solidify ties with followers as well as provide the chance to engage with international networks.

‘It’s easier for Joe Blow to donate’

While this activity isn’t illegal, the president of Insight Threat Intelligence and an expert on terrorism financing, Jessica Davis, says that in other cases regulators are challenged by the blurry line between fundraising that supports activities such as the creation of propaganda and the risk that some extremists may use it to support acts of terror.

One of the most prominent terrorist attacks associated with far-right ideology in recent years does not appear to have been directly supported by external funding. New Zealand’s royal commission into the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack concluded the terrorist was self-funded. But money was still an important part of the picture. The terrorist made at least 14 donations using PayPal and bitcoin to groups and individuals who promoted far-right views.

Davis says, in some cases, donating to extremists “does start to demonstrate how seriously people are taking that propaganda”.

It can be tempting to see far-right fundraising as something that happens far outside the financial systems we use to buy lunch or book flights. And yet, even in my Australian sample, mainstream services such as PayPal and crowdfunding sites like Buy Me a Coffee remain popular.

And as cryptocurrencies become more mainstream, their use becomes increasingly frictionless – an evolution that will have implications for tracking and regulation. A professor of computer science at Elon University and co-author of the SPLC analysis, Dr Megan Squire, points to website plugins like BitPay, which help facilitate smooth cryptocurrency payments.

“The technology and some simple interface solutions can start to … lower the barrier to entry, and make it easier for ‘Joe Blow’ user to actually donate,” she says.

Davis has also observed the growing adoption of what she calls “financial tradecraft” that makes it harder for investigators to follow the trail, including methods of obscuring which wallets are receiving funds.

Further complicating the picture are digital currencies created by entertainment and communication platforms. Perhaps the best known of these projects is Facebook’s troubled Libra project. The company behind the chat app Telegram also launched a blockchain project and cryptocurrency despite its reputation for failing to police extremist content. The company shut it down after pushback from the US Security and Exchange Commission.

Then there is the blockchain-based Odysee. Viewers can support content creators using a cryptocurrency called LBRY Credits or cash tips. While a number of Australian far-right content creators use Odysee’s video platform, the ultimate motive is unclear: it’s just as likely to be used as a backup for videos that could be removed from YouTube than as a fundraising tool.

‘Keeping yourself secret is easier now’

But there are potential points of pressure and scrutiny for far-right fundraising, such as cryptocurrency exchanges – where fiat currencies can be converted. Some cryptocurrency exchanges already have terms of services that prohibit hate speech and other activities. Coinbase, for example, reportedly blocked transfers to the notorious neo-nazi site The Daily Stormer in 2017. Earlier this year, the company’s user agreement explicitly prohibited uses that “encourage hate, racial intolerance, or violent acts against others”.

The push to remove far-right individuals and groups from funding platforms has typically been the result of public pressure. Following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for example, PayPal and other services were lobbied to remove accounts used by figures involved in the event. Similar pressure has come to bear after the 6 January insurrection, which was also used as an opportunity to make online content and ask for donations by a number of far-right actors. However, the power such payment tools have to remove accounts for all types of users, often without transparency and avenues for appeal, is of increasing concern.

Given this fresh spotlight, Squire says we may see a renewed push into cryptocurrencies by the far-right. “The tech for keeping yourself secret is a lot better now than it was in 2017 after Unite the Right in Charlottesville, which was the last big moment when a lot of these guys moved onto crypto,” she says.

“There are more coins, there are more services. It’s harder to get a handle on.”

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Best podcasts of the week: The hunt for an art dealer’s riches hidden in the mountains | Podcasts

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Picks of the week

Listening
Widely available, episodes weekly
This podcast is equivalent to stepping into the studio with a musician. A specially recorded track by artists such as Björk, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Neko Case is followed by an interview in which they explain how they made it. From Björk elucidating how she used the noise of frozen lakes to create soaring, glockenspiel-strafed choral pop, to Crutchfield enthusing about her love of white noise, it is hugely illuminating. Alexi Duggins

The Dangerous Art of the Documentary
Widely available, episodes weekly

What is it like to get involved in a twisty murder case and personally meet the participants? This new series hears director Tiller Russell interview the creators of shows such as Wild Wild Country and Don’t F**k With Cats. It might be heavy on industry detail, but it’s a comprehensive look at the film-making process. AD

Vibe Check
Widely available, episodes weekly
Fabulous trio Sam Sanders, Saeed Jones and Zach Stafford offer a weekly kiki “from a decidedly Black and queer perspective” in their new podcast. Just like in their group chat, the idea is to check in on each other. Plus the latest news and culture, with spot-on chemistry and disses delivered with love. Hannah Verdier

Missed Fortune
Apple Podcasts, episodes weekly
“I’m in a car with some guys I don’t know on our way to somewhere we’re not supposed to be … ” The stakes are high in this nine-part series, in which host Peter Frick-Wright joins the perilous treasure hunt for $1m that retired art dealer Forrest Fenn hid in the Rocky Mountains. Hollie Richardson

Night Fever
WOW Podcast Network and Spotify, episodes weekly

The most gossipy music podcast returns, with James St James, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato spilling all the tea from 1970s clubland to today. Nightlife favourites including Moby and Michelle Visage bring hilarious stories to help the hosts celebrate the glorious era before social media when New York clubbers could bump into RuPaul, Andy Warhol and Madonna. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Black Fashion History charts the course of Black designers, labels and models such as Naomi Campbell.
Black Fashion History charts the course of Black designers, labels and models such as Naomi Campbell. Photograph: Ken Towner/Associated Newspa/REX

This week, Fleur Britten chooses five of the best podcasts for fashion fans, from an intimate interview show with fashion journalism’s grand dame to a (cat)walk through the history of Black style

Creative Conversations with Suzy Menkes
For years, the veteran fashion critic Suzy Menkes and her unfeasibly large quiff were always first out of the blocks at the end of a fashion show, in order to secure those backstage interviews. As the former fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, and then editor of Vogue International, Menkes is widely regarded as the grande dame of fashion journalism, with enviable access to the industry’s biggest names. Her independent podcast, launched during the first lockdown of 2020, capitalises on those connections, taking listeners behind the scenes on in-depth conversations with the likes of Demna Gvasalia, Dries van Noten and Manolo Blahnik.

The Business of Fashion Podcast
If you like being in the know on fashion industry developments, the Business of Fashion’s weekly podcast is required listening. The globally respected fashion news website launched its audio arm in 2017, and has since brought its journalistic rigour to the podcast via topical features and insightful interviews with, for example, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, Anna Wintour’s biographer Amy Odell, and Skims CEO Jens Grede. The features – on topics including the rise of vacation clothing, and Shein’s $100bn valuation – are always ahead of the curve.

Dressed: The History of Fashion
Many of us view clothes simply as packages of colour, shape and texture. Fashion historians, however, see layers and layers of meaning and nuance within those elements. They see the implicit cultural significance of clothing choices, and understand what our clothes are really communicating. British fashion historians Rebecca Arnold from the Courtauld Institute and Beatrice Behlen of the Museum of London have been enlightening listeners on all matters fashion history since 2018 with their highbrow yet approachable weekly podcast, Bande A Part – all with a remarkably modern outlook.

Wardrobe Crisis
While many of us would like to shop more sustainably, learning the finer details of how to do that tends to get shunted down our list of priorities when there are so many more fun distractions on offer. The Sydney-based British fashion journalist and author Clare Press, who was Vogue’s first sustainability editor, makes the task an enjoyable one, with her engaging, hard-working podcast Wardrobe Crisis, launched in 2017. Press’s tone is always upbeat and solutions-focused, and guest hosts help to keep the subject matter fresh and appealing.

Black Fashion History
When the American content creator Taniqua Russ asked people to name their favourite Black designers and brands, most drew a blank. So in 2019, she started doing her own research, sharing her findings in a podcast as a resource for people to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Chronicling the contribution of Black people around the world to the fashion industry, this no-frills podcast has introduced its audience to the work of model Carol Collins-Miles, the milliner Lisa McFadden and the designer Therez Fleetwood, among others.

Why not try …

  • A glut of intimate, sideways stories in hit podcast Love + Radio, whose whole archive is now available to binge.

  • A guided yoga practice (yes, really) with a little singer called Dua Lipa in the new series of At Your Service.

  • The true story of Putin’s “number one enemy”, shot and killed in 2015, in Another Russia.

If you want to read the complete version of the newsletter please subscribe to receive Hear Here in your inbox every Thursday

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Most IPv6 DNS queries sent to Chinese resolvers fail • The Register

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China’s DNS resolvers fail two thirds of the time when handling queries for IPv6 addresses, and botch one in eight queries for IPv4, according to a group of Chinese academics.

As explained in a paper titled “A deep dive into DNS behavior and query failures” and summarized in a blog post at APNIC (the Asia Pacific’s regional internet address registry), the authors worked with log files describing 2.8 billion anonymized DNS queries processed at Chinese ISPs.

Among the paper’s findings:

  • 86.2 percent of queries were for A records – the record for a resource with an IPv4 address;
  • 10.4 percent were for AAAA records that point to resources with an IPv6 address;
  • 93.1 percent of queries for A records succeeded;
  • 35.8 percent of requests for AAAA records succeeded.

The researchers – led by professor Zhenyu Li and Donghui Yang, both from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences – suggest the reason for the low success rate of AAAA record queries is poor performance by some Chinese players.

One outfit, 114DNS, succeeded with just 14.5 percent of AAAA queries. Alibaba Group’s AliDNS succeeded 54.3 percent of the time – more than Google or Cisco’s OpenDNS, which were found to resolve 43.4 percent and 49.2 percent of AAAA queries respectively.

A fifth of DNS resolvers never succeed at handling IPv6 AAAA queries.

“Overall, A and MX queries are successfully resolved most frequently, while AAAA and PTR manifest lower success rates,” the summary reads. “Specifically, the failure rate of AAAA queries is surprisingly over 64.2 percent — two out of three AAAA queries failed.”

“We also found the success rates for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) were lower than that of well-established domains, primarily because of the prevalence of malicious domains,” wrote professor Li.

However the researchers did not identity why DNS resolution rates are so low, especially for AAAA queries. Nor do they mention what the poor IPv6 resolution rates mean for China’s plans for mass adoption of IPv6 by 2030.

The blog post recommends users adopt “a larger negative caching time-to-live for AAAA records associated with domains that only map to IPv4 addresses reliably.” Checking DNS resolvers’ success rates is also suggested ahead of making a choice of DNS provider. ®

OpenDNS mess

In other DNS-related news, Cisco’s OpenDNS service today wobbled for a few hours in North America.

WeWork offices, wherein some of our vultures toil, experienced network problems, as did at least one university. We’ve also heard reports that the incident impacted email security guardian Spamhaus.

The issue was resolved without Cisco offering any explanation for the incident.



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Wayflyer co-founder backs US fintech start-up Arc

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Jack Pierse, co-founder of Dublin-based unicorn Wayflyer, was one of the many backers of Arc’s $20m Series A round.

The co-founder of one of Ireland’s tech unicorns has invested in a US company developing tools for start-up financing.

Wayflyer’s Jack Pierse was one of several investors who joined Arc’s $20m Series A funding round. The round was led by Left Lane Capital, which is also an investor in Wayflyer.

Other investors included Clocktower Technology Ventures, Torch Capital, Atalaya, Bain Capital Ventures, Soma, Alumni Ventures, Dreamers VC, NFX, Y Combinator and the founders of Plaid, Column, Chargebee, Vouch and Jeeves.

Like Dublin-headquartered Wayflyer, which reached unicorn status earlier this year following a $150m Series B round that valued the company at $1.6bn, Arc is merging technology and finance together.

Wayflyer’s platform provides e-commerce merchants with financing and marketing analytics tools to help them access working capital, improve cash flow and drive sales. It was founded in 2019 by Pierse and Aidan Corbett.

Arc, meanwhile, is focused on providing software start-ups with financial products and tools. It was launched in January 2022 and graduated from the Y Combinator start-up accelerator programme in March.

“We are building the number one digital bank for software start-ups,” said co-founder and CEO Don Muir.

“We’re thrilled to join forces with this talented group of investors who bring relevant experience transforming fintech and SaaS start-ups into market-leading platforms,” he said.

He added that the capital from this funding round will enable the company to build and scale its products “to meet the digital banking needs of a new generation of software-driven businesses”.

The San Francisco-based start-up now supports more than 1,000 high-growth software start-ups, providing them with funding options and financial tools to scale faster. It offers a cash management account and financial analytics to drive growth.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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