Fintech

Don’t think of it as leaving Twitter. Jack Dorsey’s going all in on crypto.

Bitcoin unleashed a huge wave, and Dorsey — no longer doing double duty at Twitter and Square — wants to ride it.

Jack Dorsey at the Bitcoin 2021 Convention

There’s still time for Square to expand its crypto footprint, though, which makes the timing of Dorsey’s move significant.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jack Dorsey’s sudden exit from Twitter underlines the tech pioneer’s growing fixation with crypto — a passion that has forced a sudden resolution of the odd situation of a single individual leading two large tech companies.

It’s now clear that Square is Dorsey’s favorite child and needs all of his attention to advance the role it could play in popularizing bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency.

"If I were not at Square or Twitter I'd be working on bitcoin," Dorsey said at a cryptocurrency conference in Miami in June. At the time, he said “both companies have a role to play.”

But Twitter’s presence in the crypto world has proven minimal, despite efforts like letting users accept tips in bitcoin and hiring Tess Rinearson to lead a crypto team. Twitter’s CFO recently dissed the idea of holding bitcoin in its corporate treasury.

Square, meanwhile, has been riding the crypto wave since its Cash App added bitcoin trading almost four years ago. By 2021, 1 million Square users were buying bitcoin for the first time on Cash App. Square announced in February that 5% of Square’s total cash was in bitcoin.

In June, Blockstream, the bitcoin mining company, announced that Square was investing $5 million in a solar-powered mining operation. In July, Dorsey said Square was building “a new business” that would operate alongside divisions like Cash App and Tidal to build tools for developers, focused on bitcoin.

Square also helped set up the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance, which aims to defend the industry against patent trolls.

Recently, Square also announced that it was developing its own hardware crypto wallet “to make bitcoin custody more mainstream.”

“Bitcoin is for everyone,” Dorsey said in a tweet. “It’s important to us to build an inclusive product.”

Despite those moves, Square remains a relative newbie in crypto. Bitcoin trading has juiced its revenue lately, but it’s going up against nimbler, faster-moving competitors like Coinbase and Robinhood.

“Jack wants all in on crypto,” Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang told Protocol. “He doesn’t want to miss the next big thing.”

One challenge for Dorsey and Square is his well-known allegiance to bitcoin, which is increasingly just one cryptocurrency among many, and not the most technically sophisticated one. Wang says Square needs “to be in the middle of smart contracts,” a technology most firmly established on the Ethereum blockchain. A coming upgrade to bitcoin called Taproot promises to facilitate smart contracts using bitcoin, but it would seem smarter to spread one’s bets.

There’s still time for Square to expand its crypto footprint, though, which makes the timing of Dorsey’s move significant. “It’s early in the marketplace,” Wang said. “This space will be won by a few players. We are in 1997 for the internet.”

Climate

A pro-China disinformation campaign is targeting rare earth miners

It’s uncommon for cyber criminals to target private industry. But a new operation has cast doubt on miners looking to gain a foothold in the West in an apparent attempt to protect China’s upper hand in a market that has become increasingly vital.

It is very uncommon for coordinated disinformation operations to target private industry, rather than governments or civil society, a cybersecurity expert says.

Photo: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just when we thought the renewable energy supply chains couldn’t get more fraught, a sophisticated disinformation campaign has taken to social media to further complicate things.

Known as Dragonbridge, the campaign has existed for at least three years, but in the last few months it has shifted its focus to target several mining companies “with negative messaging in response to potential or planned rare earths production activities.” It was initially uncovered by cybersecurity firm Mandiant and peddles narratives in the Chinese interest via its network of thousands of fake social media accounts.

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Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Ripple’s CEO threatens to leave the US if it loses SEC case

CEO Brad Garlinghouse said a few countries have reached out to Ripple about relocating.

"There's no doubt that if the SEC doesn't win their case against us that that is good for crypto in the United States,” Brad Garlinghouse told Protocol.

Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said the crypto company will move to another country if it loses in its legal battle with the SEC.

Garlinghouse said he’s confident that Ripple will prevail against the federal regulator, which accused the company of failing to register roughly $1.4 billion in XRP tokens as securities.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Policy

The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling is bad news for tech regulation, too

The justices just gave themselves a lot of discretion to smack down agency rules.

The ruling could also endanger work on competition issues by the FTC and net neutrality by the FCC.

Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s decision last week gutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn’t just signal the conservative justices’ dislike of the Clean Air Act at a moment of climate crisis. It also served as a warning for anyone that would like to see more regulation of Big Tech.

At the heart of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in West Virginia v. EPA was a codification of the “major questions doctrine,” which, he wrote, requires “clear congressional authorization” when agencies want to regulate on areas of great “economic and political significance.”

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Enterprise

Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

Microsoft said accessibility goals overrode problems with emotion recognition and Google offers off-the-shelf emotion recognition technology amid growing concern over the controversial AI.

Emotion recognition is a well-established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

In fact, amid growing concerns over development and use of controversial emotion recognition in everyday software, both Microsoft and Google continue to incorporate the AI-based features in their products.

“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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