The use of cryptocurrency has always been a point of contention with its legality being a mystery to the public. Bitcoins are a form of digital currency and are not considered to be legal tender. However, these are capable of functioning as a medium of exchange akin to money. The lack of a traditional government or bank-backed system to regulate its use makes cryptocurrencies the target of several concerns such as it being a conduit for black money or anonymously funding terrorism. Despite the odds, cryptocurrencies have gained popularity worldwide and the cryptocurrency market in India has also been slowly gathering momentum.
Since 2013, various warnings were issued by the RBI through its press releases regarding the potential risks of the use of cryptocurrencies to the financial system of the country. The Inter-ministerial Committee on February 28, 2019, had also released a report recommending certain measures in relation to cryptocurrencies, which included a complete ban on private cryptocurrencies. This committee had also prepared a draft bill known as Crypto Token and Crypto Asset (Banning, Control and Regulation) Bill, 2018 (the fate of which is currently unknown). However, the use of cryptocurrency per se was never banned.
In April 2018, the RBI issued a circular banning regulated financial institutions from providing services to businesses dealing in exchange/trading of cryptocurrencies, which put the entire Indian cryptocurrency trading industry in turmoil. The validity of the circular was challenged before the Supreme Court in various writ petitions lead by crypto-trading entities. In its decision in the Internet and Mobile Association of India v. Reserve Bank of India, the Supreme Court deliberated on cryptocurrency and struck down the circular.
The Supreme Court analyzed the role of RBI in the economy as a central bank to manage currency, money supply and interest rates and recognized that the maintenance of price stability as an objective of RBI. The Supreme Court noted that cryptocurrency is capable of being accepted as valid payment for the purchase of goods and services, and payment systems can be regulated by the RBI.
The Supreme Court held that the RBI was within its rights to issue the circular in fulfillment of its objective under law to safeguard the “public interest, interests of depositors and interests of the banking policy”. The Supreme Court stated that “Therefore, anything that may pose a threat to or have an impact on the financial system of the country, can be regulated or prohibited by RBI, despite the said activity not forming part of the credit system or payment system.” As the circular was found to be issued in the interest of banking policy, the depositors and of the public at large, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that there had been excessive use of power by RBI.
The circular was also challenged on the grounds that denial of access to those who trade in cryptocurrency would tantamount to a denial of their constitutional right to carry on any trade or profession and thus would be violative of Article 19(1)(g). The Supreme Court upheld this contention by stating that “There can also be no quarrel with the proposition that banking channels provide the lifeline of any business, trade or profession.”
However, the Supreme Court drew a clear distinction between the three categories of persons who trade in cryptocurrency as a hobby as opposed to those who engage in trading in cryptocurrency as their business/occupation. The Supreme Court held that the first category who buys and sells cryptocurrency as a mere hobby cannot base their claim on Article 19(1)(g) as it only covers trade, occupation, profession or business.
The Supreme Court further held that the second category of citizens those who trade in cryptocurrency cannot also claim that the circular had the effect of completely shutting down their businesses, as they could still continue trading in “crypto-to-crypto” pairs or use the currencies stored in their wallets to make payments for the purchase of goods and services to those who are prepared to accept them, within India or abroad. Therefore, it is only the third category i.e., cryptocurrency exchanges that suffered due to the circular, as they had no other means of survival if they were disconnected from banking channels.
Though the RBI was held to be within its rights to issue the circular, the factor that led to the striking down of the circular was the lack of proof of the “proportional damage” suffered by RBI regulated entities in dealing with businesses operating in cryptocurrencies. The Supreme Court observed that the circular disconnected the banking sector from cryptocurrency exchanges despite the RBI not having found anything wrong with the functioning of these exchanges. It was also noted that before issuing the circular, the RBI did not explore the availability of alternative and less intrusive measures such as regulating cryptocurrency trading and cryptocurrency exchanges.
Though the judgment has provided temporary relief, there is currently an absence of definitive regulation on the cryptocurrency market. In light of such a vacuum, it is unlikely that financial institutions and the banking sector would be inclined towards investing in virtual currencies.
The wide-scale use of cryptocurrency also seems to be questionable, as the “Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2019” has been proposed with the aim to ban all private cryptocurrencies. Though the Indian Parliament is yet to approve this bill, it would be interesting to think through the role of digital currencies in the post-COVID-19 economy.
Author: Sawant Singh
Reddit’s big cryptocurrency move is an exciting test
Reddit has finally made a move to tokenize its community points system, unveiling a beta test of two tokens based on the Ethereum network. The trial will initially roll out to two subreddits—r/cryptocurrency and r/FortniteBR—with more than two million subscribers between them.
While Facebook and Telegram have either delayed or cancelled their cryptocurrency projects, Reddit is going full steam ahead. While smaller than Facebook, the app is a similar size to Telegram, and has 430 million users. Out of its users, 64% are aged between 18–24 and 69% of them are male—an audience known to be interested in cryptocurrency. If this trial is successful, it could send a clear message to other apps around the world that they should follow in its stead. And at the same time, it’s an exciting test for crypto in the real world.
Rumours of Reddit getting into cryptocurrency first spread in early April. Some users were able to access a wallet system which contained hints about the project. At the time, Reddit said it was working with one community on the offering. Yesterday, much more information was released.
In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek slide presentation, the social media platform relayed its vision for a new frontier: a free and fair Internet. It claims the Internet has been ruined by advertising, censorship and “walled gardens” hoping that cryptocurrency might offer a way out.
The beta test is currently in operation through summer 2020. The new system will start with two communities—r/CryptoCurrency and r/FortniteBR—with tokens aptly named “Moon” and “Bricks,” respectively. Fortnite is a popular online video game.
As for what tools could achieve such an undertaking, Reddit offers up its “Community points.” Much in the same way as the existing karma, or Reddit gold systems, community points are used as a measure of reputation within the community—earned by submitting quality posts and comments. But unlike the current system, these tokens are running on a blockchain—and have some fancy features.
The Community Points are ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, in the same way that many tokens were created during the ICO craze. They act as a way for Redditors to “own” a piece of their favorite communities. And no one—not even Reddit moderators—can seize ownership of them.
Community Points are also redeemable, allowing access to “special memberships” and premium features, including gifs, custom emojis, and badges. On top of this, Reddit plans to introduce a “weighted voting” system, bolstering the votes of users with the most Community Points.
They’re also transferable via the Reddit Vault, which essentially acts as an Ethereum wallet. Same as with most cryptocurrencies, if you lose your private key to the vault, you lose your community points. As for who foots the bill for transaction fees, Reddit remarks that they’ll cover the costs, “for now.”
The Reddit presentation also mentions that “advanced users” can use other Ethereum tools if they so wish. Yet the success won’t be with the Ethereum diehards but with the thousands of new users just dipping their toes in the water.
Author: Decrypt / Will Heasman
Blockchain Technology – Best Cryptocurrencies on the Rise in LA
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A place next to Satoshi: foundations of blockchain and cryptocurrency research in business and economics
Blockchain technology has become an ubiquitous phenomenon. While the topic originated in computer science, the business and economics literature was comparatively slow to pick up on it. To better understand the academic basis, current developments and future research avenues of the discourse, 9672 cited references of 467 blockchain and cryptocurrency articles from the fields of business and economics are gathered from the Web of Science Core Collection and are analyzed. Five major strands of research are identified through factor analysis. They are reviewed and their interrelation is mapped using social network analysis. Research on (I) market efficiency and economics and (II) asset pricing and valuation is relatively mature and focuses on cryptocurrencies, while research on (III) the principles and applications of blockchain technology, (IV) transactions and anonymity and (V) monetary theory and policy lacks maturity. Potential paths for future research are pointed out and in conclusion, it is assessed that this young field of research still leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre. A scientific place next to Nakamoto (2008) is still available for existing, emerging and new research streams.
Over the last few years, blockchain technology has shown the potential to affect nearly all industries and sectors. While Bitcoin or, more generally, cryptocurrency was only its first application, the underlying blockchain technology offers much wider scope. The special feature of blockchain technology is that it is not an actual invention but ‘merely’ an intelligent concatenation of existing mechanisms, which include technical mechanisms but also economic incentive models. A wide range of possible applications and their (potential) consequences remain to be researched. While such a technical topic was predictably first embraced by computer scientists and engineers, the business, economics and finance literature has since discovered blockchain for itself and has been producing a steady flow of both empirical and theoretical contributions for several years now.
A systematic analysis of the field of blockchain research is a necessary first step to obtain a fundamental overview and to identify lines of research that may have been neglected or that may hold specific potential. This is done by co-citation analysis in the form of exploratory factor analysis to prevent subjectivity. In addition, it is identified, using social network analysis, how research directions change over time and how they are related to each other. After considering the research streams and the actual articles, a number of gaps in the existing research and, by implication, promising avenues for future research are pointed out.
Note that the term cryptocurrency refers not only to currencies but also to so-called tokens, which can be used for financing purposes or supply chain transparency, for example. The analysis explicitly includes cryptocurrency, not least because the terms blockchain and Bitcoin were used somewhat interchangeably until recently, with early research in this area referring to Bitcoin throughout.
The paper proceeds as follows: Related work is described in the “Related work” Section. The “Methodology” Section presents the methodology in terms of data collection and analysis. The “Findings on research streams” Section contains the results, providing an initial overview and then going into detail regarding the development of the five identified research streams. “Social network analysis” Section specifically presents the results of the social network analysis. The “Discussion” Section discusses the results, including limitations and future research avenues. Finally, the “Conclusion” Section contains a brief conclusion.
The data were collected from the Web of Science Core Collection in July 2019. To capture all publications on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the search term TS = (blockchain* OR distributed ledger* OR cryptocurrenc* OR bitcoin*) is used. Only peer-reviewed articles in the fields of business, finance and economics published after 2007 were considered. The extracted sample comprised 494 articles. (Without the discipline constraint, 2132 articles were obtained, with computer science and engineering accounting for most of the additional papers.) 27 articles proved to be unrelated to blockchain and cryptocurrency, so the final record contains 467 articles, with references to 9672 sources. These sources then naturally also refer to dates prior to 2008 and only a part of them are peer-reviewed publications. The final list of the 467 articles can be retrieved under https://doi.org/10.17632/x5cstsscmz.1.
The first and largest strand of research deals with the market economics and efficiency of cryptocurrencies. It accounts for 36.65% of the variance in the sample and a percentage of 35.6% of all examined publications can be assigned to the stream, of which more than half have factor loadings above 0.7 and thus represent publications of high thematic fit. The second stream (12.15% of the variance) concerns asset valuation and price formation and consists of 26.4% of all articles (9.2% with factor loadings above 0.7). The third stream accounts for 5.52% of the variance and deals with the principles and applications of blockchain. A share of 12.1% of papers can be assigned to the stream, while 5.7% of the sample represent important publications. The fourth stream (5.04%) covers special properties of cryptocurrency transactions, such as anonymity or irreversibility, and their regulatory implications. It covers 8.6% of all publications analyzed in the factor analysis and has the smallest share of high-fit publications (3.4%). Lastly, the fifth stream accounts for 3.73% of the variance and deals with monetary theory and policy, such as the suitability of Bitcoin as a currency. It represents a share of 7.5% of all papers examined, of which 75% are highly relevant publications for the stream.
Figure 1 shows histograms of the distribution of factor loadings and factor scores for all five identified research streams. It can be seen that the distribution of factor loadings in streams I and II varies comparatively strongly, while a trend can be observed in the three following streams. There, the largest part of all loadings is found between − 0.1 and 0.1, which shows that factors are composed of only a few specific publications and that the majority of the remaining ones are hardly thematically related. Stream IV represents a special feature, which is expressed by the fact that the highest identified factor loadings is 0.78. In terms of factor scores, stream III with has an extremely high factor score of 9.75.
Distribution of factor loadings and factor scores across research streams. Frequencies are displayed on the y-axis, factor loadings and factor scores on the x-axis respectively
Table 2 shows the correlation coefficients among the five factors or research streams, as obtained via oblique rotation. Factors one and five exhibit negative coefficients throughout. The strongest positive correlation exists between streams II and IV, while the strongest negative correlation applies to the relationships between streams I and III, and II and V, respectively. This suggests that streams I and III as well as streams II and IV have little in common, while streams II and V have high similarity.
Figure 2 shows the relative development of the research streams over time based on the number of publications. For this purpose, every publication with more than three co-citations was assigned to one of the five streams or ‘other’, and the relative size of the six categories was graphed for each year or period.
Relative development of research stream publications over time
Note that the years before the publication of the Bitcoin whitepaper were grouped into a single period, as were the years 2008 to 2011, because of the very low number of publications prior to 2012. Research stream I has been gaining ground steadily since 2014 and by 2018 accounted for 92.3% of the research on blockchain and cryptocurrencies examined here. The streams on ‘transactions and anonymity’ and ‘monetary theory and policy’ hit their peak importance in the period 2012 to 2014, while ‘blockchain basics’ peaked in 2015/16. Stream II accounted for a consistently large share.
The following subsections describe each of the research streams in detail before their interrelations are analyzed via social network analysis.
The second research stream accounts for 12.15% of the variance. This stream is somewhat similar to the first one, not least with regard to its set of contributors. In comparison to stream I, however, the publications are older, and several articles do not explicitly refer to cryptocurrencies but merely provide a basis for such studies. The overall theme of the stream can be summarized as asset valuation and price formation. The discourse tackles the question of how cryptocurrency prices can be explained and determined. The ten most important publications of the stream based on factor loadings are presented in Table 4. There is no trend regarding the outlets of publication, as all twelve papers were published in different journals.
The fourth research stream consists of 10 articles and explains 5.04% of the variance. These ten publications are listed in Table 6 along with 3 additional papers with high factor scores. This research stream primarily deals with the fundamental properties of cryptocurrency, in particular transactions, irreversibility and (pseudo-)anonymity, and their consequences. This includes for example the possibility of secure online peer-to-peer payment or the risks associated with digital currency, such as money laundering. Potential solutions and regulatory approaches are discussed. Most of the publications are from the period 2012 to 2014 and cover either legal or technical aspects. No two papers were published in the same outlet, as shown below the table.
The fifth research stream explains 3.73% of the variance and consists of 10 articles plus three additional ones with high factor scores (cf. Table 7). The basic theme of the discourse is monetary theory, economics and policy. The network of authors is comparatively small. George Selgin and Randall Wright authored three publications, and William J. Luther contributed to four.
Having identified the most relevant research streams on blockchain and cryptocurrency in the areas of business and economics, the question arises how they are related. Social network analysis can serve to visualize the connections within and between the research streams. The results are shown in Fig. 3. The frequency of citation, a metric for the relevance of a publication, is represented by the size of the nodes. Each node is colored according to the research stream it is associated with, i.e. with respect to which it has a factor score of 0.4 or more. If a paper exceeds that value with respect to several factors, it is assigned where the factor score is greatest. The nodes (publications) are linked by a line in case of five or more co-citations.
Visualization of research stream interrelations. The size of a node represents the absolute number of citations, lines between articles represent five co-citations between articles. For readability, only relationships ≥ 5 and only first authors are shown. Color represents research stream affiliation of nodes. Created with UCINET software
Various methods and economic theories are identified as formative literature. For example, GARCH models in stream II and economic theory in stream IV seem to be of high relevance. A partial absence, or rather wide spread across different methods and theories is observed, which can be an indication that the scientific discourse is still so young that researchers can apply a variety of methods. It is possible to refer to different theories. This may consolidate in the future if the streams continue to grow or split up into subcategories.
In the emerging field of blockchain principles and applications, original fundamental research is only just beginning to replace the Bitcoin whitepaper, which continues to be of great importance. At present, the outstanding articles of the stream consist of economic and technical fundamentals as well as introductory literature (in the form of books). Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are constantly changing, and the existing basic literature (e.g. Swan 2015; Tapscott and Tapscott 2018) may soon become outdated, if that has not already happened. The stream may split into various more specialised streams in the future, including application-specific streams.
While more developed discourses will have peer-reviewed articles as their formative works, this is not the case for research on blockchain and its application, nor for transactions and anonymity. Most publications in stream IV date from 2013/14, which may mean that most relevant findings were published then and scientific progress has slowed down. However, it is much more likely that this branch of research has been neglected (by peer-reviewed research). This does not necessarily apply to other scientific fields like computer science or engineering that have not been examined here. In this respect, there is an opportunity to gain a foothold within the stream and to shape its further development, for example through the systematic processing, review, presentation or transfer of the technical literature.
This study is subject to some limitations, of which only the most relevant ones can be mentioned here. In line with common practice in the literature, the data were collected exclusively from the Web of Science. While many comparable databases exist, which might have yielded additional papers, they were not used for technical reasons (ease of data export). Furthermore, research on blockchain and cryptocurrencies is also published outside of peer-reviewed journals (cf. e.g. the seminal whitepapers). Therefore, it is likely that the search of the Web of Science will have missed some important contributions. Finally, the choice of search terms of course shaped the results and is open to debate.
Figure 2 shows very clearly that research on market economics and efficiency has increased dramatically in relation to the other areas since 2014. However, this is probêably due not only to the relevance of the topic but also to comparatively swift channels of publication (e.g. via research letters or notes). Research in the other streams should in principle be similarly far-reaching, which indicates potential research gaps.
Three of the five streams appear to still be developing, which suggests a wealth of starting points in these areas. While this article has focused on the sources underlying the 467 scientific publications, trends for future research can also be derived from this core sample of papers. Several research clusters within this set could develop into research streams in their own right. So far, there are no dedicated streams on application areas, management or entrepreneurship. If and when such streams arise, this will be a good opportunity for enterprising researchers.
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- Blockchain Research Lab, Colonnaden 72, Hamburg, 20354, Germany
- Lennart Ante
- Faculty of Business, Economics & Social Sciences, University of Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 5, 20146, Hamburg, Germany
- Lennart Ante
Received: 02 December 2019
Published: 15 May 2020
- Distributed ledger
- Informetric analysis
- Bibliometric analysis
- Social network analysis
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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