Promote a ICO and you might be liable

The SEC has been slow to do anything about Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) but today came with a warning for celebrities: don't promote an ICO if you aren't disclosing that you're paid (also, you might be investigated for fraud).

A lot of celebrities have jumped into ICOs in return for ridiculous compensation. DJ Khaled and Paris Hilton both promoted previous ICO projects, likely without really understanding what it is they're endorsing.

The thing is, those endorsements work: it makes people believe they're more legitimate than they are, when in reality many ICO schemes are "pump and dumps" where creators attempt to hype up their launch and at the peak "dump" the coins as fast as possible.

The New York Times this weekend wrote about a coin, Centra, which was endorsed by Khaled and wound up with them standing in front of a grand jury:

"The… endorsement of Centra, along with a similar endorsement from the popular rapper DJ Khaled, lent a patina of credibility to a project that has ended up with more than a few problems, including a chief executive who does not appear to have been a real person and a shaky, fast-shifting business plan.
Thanks in part to the endorsements, in just a few weeks Centra’s founders raised over $30 million from investors around the world. They finished their fund-raising this month, just before a grand jury indicted two of the three co-founders on perjury charges stemming from a drunken-driving case."

If it looks like, walks like and smells like a pyramid scheme it probably is one but these aren't going away anytime soon, particularly because 'legitimate' ICOs are helping fuel the fire. Kik, for example, raised $100 million instead of going to investors.

The SEC's announcement contains some great advice that we should all take to heart, I suspect:

"It is never a good idea to make an investment decision just because someone famous says a product or service is a good investment."

Facebook to crack down, but warns of profit cuts

Yes, Facebook went before Congress over the last few days to face the music on what might be the defining moment of the social network in history this week. 

Senators are particularly pissed off that Facebook, Twitter and Google sent their lawyers and not their CEOs to face the music. Calling it a "profound disappointment" and that they don't seem to understand the gravity of the issue.

Dianne Feinstein, Senator from California, made one hell of a statement yesterday:

"We are not going to go away, gentleman. And this is a very big deal ... You have a huge problem on your hands [...] You created these platforms... and now they're being misused. You have to be the ones who do something about it - or we will."

The most stark question, from Senator Adam Schiff, was if Facebook agrees algorithms are deeping divides in America, which elicited a non-response of "the data on that is quite mixed" and "we want to bring people together." Ugh.

Of great coincidence is that Facebook had its earnings report on the same week, meaning the company needed to address investor concerns about Russian tampering. Zuckerberg painted a... clear picture of what the future entails:

"But none of that matters if our services are used in ways that don't bring people closer together. We're serious about preventing abuse on our platforms. We're investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits."

OK, good stance but, of course, Facebook can afford to say this when it made $10 billion in a single quarter. If it does crack down by, I don't know, separating the News Feed, then it'll need a significant profit rejig anyway.

Congress has been pushing for a few different things: more data on the advertisements shown to Americans, identification and notification of those who might have seen an ad so they're aware as well as many other changes, but they're unlikely to amount to much.

The reality is we now know what the Russian meddling has achieved: Facebook's relationship with the US government and users is precarious at best and, wow, it's possible to influence people's core beliefs with an algorithm. 

Tab Dump™

Amazon's adding AR to help you buy more stuff
Oh, that pot looks nice on my stove. *adds to cart*

Razer is making a phone for gamers
Question one: why?
Question two: Uh, it looks like just a rebadged phone?
Question three: Oh god haven't we learnt from random companies making an Android device then never updating it already?

The iPhone X was originally planned for a 2018 release 🤔
Interesting report on how Apple moved the iPhone X product forward an entire year. Nice PR line, probably true, but also: I hope this works out for them at scale.