Crypto skeptics step up lobbying efforts with their first conference

For years, crypto skeptics have been a few talking heads on Twitter shouting out to the abyss to anyone who would listen. In the last year and a half, we’ve been networking and sharing information. Our voices are getting louder — and policymakers are listening!

Last month, a group of us joined forces to urge US lawmakers to crack down on the crypto industry. Twenty-six computer scientists and academics sent a signed letter to US lawmakers criticizing crypto investments and blockchain technology. The move got wide media coverage. 

Soon after, David Gerard, author of “Attack of the 50-Foot Blockchain” and my co-writer in documenting the current crypto collapse,” journalist Izabella Kaminska, and noted academic John Naughton appeared in front of the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to tell them that blockchain technology is devoid of any meaningful use case.  

Now, for the first time, crypto skeptics will have our own conference: the Crypto Policy Symposium. It’s a way for us to network amongst ourselves, and to connect with lawmakers to make sure they have the information they need to shape future policy. 

Scheduled to take place September 5 to 6 in London and virtually, the event is being organized by Stephen Diehl, a software engineer and co-author of “Popping the Crypto Bubble,” and Martin Walker. A long-term follower of attempts to apply “blockchain” to banking, Walker is a director of the Center for Evidence-Based Management, a leading management think-tank.

The main goal of the symposium, as Diehl explained it to me, is to give policymakers access to the information and material they need to make informed decisions around crypto regulation. 

Right now, politicians are mainly hearing from lobby groups, funded by deep-pocket crypto companies with lots of venture capitalist backing. Diehl hopes the effort will bring together domain experts and policymakers from the European Union, and the US to address public interest problems.

“Europe and the US are the big fronts, and in the US, there is a bill going through and a lot of debate in the executive branch right now,” he said, in reference to recent legislation introduced by pro-bitcoin Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). If passed into law, the bill will create new loopholes for token-based startups to skirt securities laws.

Over a span of two days, symposium attendees will get to watch a dozen panels lasting 45 minutes each. “Ideally, panels will include three to four people — someone from tech, someone from law, and someone from journalism,” Diehl said. “The aim is to offer a balanced perspective.” 

Topics will include bitcoin’s environmental impact, the politics of bitcoin — yes, David Golumbia, author of “The Politics of Bitcoin” will be talking — ICOs, NFTs, Web3, and the current DeFi domino collapse. Diehl and Walker have enlisted three dozen notable crypto skeptic luminaries — including myself and David Gerard! — in journalism, tech, and academia, as panelists at the event. 

Diehl hinted at the possibility of a high-profile keynote but we will have to wait for that to be confirmed to learn more. He and Walker have invited members of regulatory and financial agencies across the US and Europe, including the FCA, ECB, IMF, SEC, Finma, and Bafin.

“White papers are being written across every branch of the US government, from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Treasury Department to the FBI,” Diehl added. “Biden has commissioned all of this work and the bureaucrats are woefully uninformed. This is a problem, and that is why work like this is really important.” 

He and Walker also want the symposium to be a meeting place for crypto skeptics. “I feel like a lot of us are islands. I want everyone to know everyone, make friends, and create a community. That is how things actually get done in advancing this kind of policy work,” he said.

It’s been a lot of work organizing the event, but Diehl is optimistic: “There have been hundreds of other crypto industry conferences but this is the first one where critical voices are welcome to speak freely about these important issues.”

I’m not sure I’ll make it to London, but I’m looking forward to taking part in this event virtually.

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