Bitcoin in the Headlines is a weekly look at global bitcoin news, analysing media coverage and its impact.
The media seems to have hit on a winning formula for bitcoin coverage.
Just when you thought publications might be tired of framing bitcoin as an endless debate, The Wall Street Journal threw a spanner into the works with a prominent feature on the subject in its print version.
Still, while the Journal did attempt to put bitcoin in the spotlight, most outlets continue to link the digital currency to less desirable trends.
Don’t worry, there’s been plenty of talk relating to drugs, crime and terrorism in this week’s recap.
The Wall Street Journal‘s exposé, aptly titled “Do Cryptocurrencies Such as Bitcoin Have a Future?“, delved into the future of money.
Though a bit of a departure from its more topical online coverage, it seems the Journal has now also taken to informing its print audience about bitcoin, starting with the basics.
So, what is bitcoin? Well, according to Campbell R Harvey, the digital currency is a technology.
“Don’t judge bitcoin by its early inevitable problems.”
Harvey explained that it does not matter whether bitcoin is backed by a central authority or not. Bitcoin, he argues, exists because users assign value to it, adding that “to say that it violates the rules of finance because it lacks a central issuer is problematic on many levels. Governments don’t ‘guarantee’ stability of their currencies – look at the ruble and Swiss franc”.
The feature wasn’t all positive, however.
“As a currency, bitcoin violates all the rules of finance”, retaliated Eric Tymoigne, an assistant professor of economics at Lewis Clare College, describing the digital currency as a commodity, and “not a financial instrument”.
“Its value fluctuates widely, in line with changing views regarding the overall usefulness of the bitcoin payment system and speculative manias surrounding such views.”
Tymoigne concluded: “As an alleged alternative currency, bitcoin is unacceptable.”
Elsewhere, columnists were giving voice to long simmering opinions on the industry.
Mark Gilbert, a Bloomberg View columnist, for example, dedicated a piece to the challenge bitcoin poses to central banks, asking “Should they ban it, regulate it, embrace it, undermine it or just ignore it?”
Gilbert explains that, in his view, banks would be best to let Darwinism take its course, and resist the regulatory impulse to interfere with either bitcoin’s survival or demise. And if it [bitcoin] lives, they should simply step aside and celebrate innovation rather than try to lock block its progress.
Though Bloomberg was perhaps more progressive, The New York Times seemed to take a bit of step back running an article entitled “U.S. Auction Suggests Lingering Interest in Bitcoin” filled with sentences suggesting bitcoin may be a lingering fad.
The piece started off by saying: “The falling price of bitcoin has not entirely quashed investor enthusiasm for the virtual currency.”
The curious entrance was echoed elsewhere in the article, which takes place after years of ups and downs in the price of the volatile currency, all of which have arguably left enthusiasm unaffected.
Quibbles aside, the author concluded the piece optimistically, writing:
“While the bitcoin frenzy appears to have subsided the fact that the latest auction had more bidders than the one in December should provide some hope to bitcoin supporters.”
Bitcoin and terror together again
One of the biggest lightning rods in coverage this week, however, came from a new media startup.
BuzzFeed News published a piece titled “Teenage Bitcoin Afficionado Reportedly Arrested for Helping Man Join ISIS”, picking up on a small detail in a previous Washington Post report that a Northern Virginia high school student had been taken into custody by the FBI.
How is this linked to bitcoin you ask? Simple. According to BuzzFeed, the teen’s online presence showed that he had an interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
He was allegedly linked to a bitcoin startup aimed at the Middle East, “the first bitcoin exchange directed primarily at the Arab market, featuring a full Arabic site and exchange, along with dealings in currencies found in the Middle East”, the article said.
The article provided evidence of an ongoing trend that links bitcoin afficionados and terrorism, though it was far from the only article that gave coverage the subject matter, as ChangeTip was notably involved in a minor scandal involving the Islamic State.
At the time of press, a simple search on Google with the terms “bitcoin” and “terrorism” brought over 30,000 results. Perhaps it is unfair to solely blame the media.