In this newsletter, HRF will provide useful stories and information to help us better understand the global impact of growing worldwide Bitcoin adoption. We’ll go beyond Wall Street and zoom in on what’s happening with Bitcoin beyond what you see in the traditional news cycle. Divided into a Global News section and a Bitcoin Education and Development section, our goal is to create a weekly resource for you that includes shareable information on the world’s most interesting projects, tools, guides, events, and content at the intersection of Bitcoin and human rights.
With this in mind, let’s get to this week’s highlights.
Forbes profiles how Nigerians continue to flock to Bitcoin and stablecoins as monetary alternatives to the collapsing Naira, especially in anticipation of the upcoming Bitcoin halving in April 2024. The author — Btrust board member Abubakar Nur Khalil — gives a detailed overview of how Bitcoin remains a lifeline for Nigerians who deal with a fiat currency that has shrunk from being worth 462 per dollar officially in June, to more than 1,100 per dollar in the streets today.
In a landmark move, an EU parliament committee rejected the mass scanning of private and encrypted communications, proving that democracies can still stand up for digital privacy and human rights. The move rejected the idea of scanning all digital messages, relieving pressure on end-to-end encrypted messaging providers from complying with an Orwellian law.
Coin Center published a new report questioning the legality of the Bank Secrecy Act. The report argues why creeping financial surveillance should not just be a worry for Americans but for everyone in the world. This is particularly true for people living under authoritarian regimes, as dictators often mimic regulations originating in the US and replicate them in more severe or restrictive ways.
The IMF agreed to grant Malawi a $178 million loan to support the country’s economic recovery. Earlier this month, in preparation for the loan, the southern African nation devalued its Kwacha currency from 1,180 to 1,700 per dollar. With such a sudden loss of purchasing power and yet another mountain of dollar-denominated debt, this has real monetary implications for Malawians. HRF plans to visit Malawi next month to meet educators working to help local communities adopt Bitcoin as an alternative currency.
According to a new Food Security report, Venezuelans have suffered the world’s highest nominal food price inflation rate at 318%. The Lebanese suffered an increase of 239%, followed by Argentines at 150% and Egyptians at 74%. As these countries face monetary challenges, it’s relevant to note that they also rank highly for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption.
The Africa Bitcoin Conference, taking place on December 1-3 in Accra, Ghana, will showcase innovative Bitcoin products and services from across the African continent and will amplify key voices, helping millions of people escape from broken currency systems. Tickets are available here. HRF leadership will attend ABC. We are proud to support this event alongside Btrust, Block, Fedi, Strike, and others.
Last week, HRF unveiled its Central Bank Digital Currency Tracker at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This new tool tracks the development of CBDCs around the world, with a focus on their rollout in authoritarian countries and their threat to civil liberties. An Executive Summary explains:
-62% of governments (119 out of 193) are experimenting with CBDCs
-3.7 billion people (46% of the world’s population) are living under authoritarian regimes experimenting with CBDCs
-55 states have already piloted or deployed a CBDC
The Latest in Bitcoin Development and Education
–Machankura, a service that allows people in Africa to send and receive Bitcoin via text messaging on phones with no data or internet, will soon roll out a feature that allows users to self-custody. With no internet, data, or smartphone required, this would be a significant step towards expanding financial freedom for the more than 2 billion people in today’s world who lack internet access.
–SimpleX is a new encrypted mobile messaging app. Unlike Signal, it is not tied to a phone number, thereby further protecting your digital privacy. It can even be self-hosted. Educator Ben Perrin (BTC Sessions), who has a popular series of explainer videos about Bitcoin and privacy, recently published a tutorial on getting started with SimpleX. We highly recommend checking this out and following Ben’s content.
–Bitkey, a new Bitcoin wallet in production by Block, shipped its beta to its first set of users. Bitkey is a multi-sig tool that allows users to automatically withdraw funds from services like CashApp to self-custody and focuses on making the user experience simple, safe, and secure. HRF looks forward to sharing developments in the hardware wallet space in this newsletter.
–Spiral and Opensats announced new grantees. They include Will Clark, Chaincode alumnus and BTrust mentor who has been contributing to Bitcoin Core for several years; Michael Haase, a prolific product designer taking on Bitcoin inheritance and collaborative custody; and ZeroSync, who will be working on Bitcoin proofs.
-A developer behind the Phoenix Wallet proposed a method to improve the privacy and security of Lightning Addresses. We are following this proposal closely as it would be extremely useful for human rights defenders and journalists to quickly spin up a more privacy-protecting and trustless lightning address.
-A few weeks ago in Japan, more than 400 people working on censorship-resistant social media gathered at Nostrasia. HRF attended to learn more about how we can play a role in this community. Alex Li, the lead of HRF’s Bitcoin Development Fund, gave a presentation and collected new information that will hopefully inform future HRF grants in this Nostr space.
The Future of Energy? Brooklyn’s Bitcoin-Heated Bathhouse
A new Reason short film explores the phenomenon of Bitcoin mining. HRF was featured in the film to help explain the social impact of harvesting electricity into digital currency. On Nov. 27 in New York City, Reason will host a live screening and panel discussion, including the founder of PubKey and Bathhouse (a Brooklyn-based spa powered by Bitcoin mining), as well as HRF Chief Strategy Officer Alex Gladstein. Find tickets here.
Money Across Borders
By Nicholas Anthony, policy analyst at Cato Institute
In this insightful and well-written piece, Nicholas shows us how Bitcoin and stablecoins are being used worldwide as remittances by people fleeing conflict or trying to find an alternative to an inefficient global payment system. He asks policymakers to consider welcoming currency competition as a source of innovation and inspiration instead of fighting back.
This Month in Bitcoin Privacy – October Edition
By Janine, privacy expert
In the latest newsletter edition of “This Month in Bitcoin Privacy,” Janine highlights the problems with the Ledger Recover service; a new silent payments BIP draft; Tor Network adding proof-of-work defense, and more. If you want to learn more about Bitcoin privacy, subscribing to Janine’s newsletter is a great place to start.
Thank you for reading the first edition of the Financial Freedom Report. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it with your colleagues, friends, and loved ones. From the Financial Freedom team at HRF, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving!
Until next time,
Financial Freedom Specialist