Law Decoded: As Crisis Mode Fades, Regulators Look Kindly on Crypto, June 12-19

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Regulators are warming up to crypto around the world as they embrace innovation for economic recovery.

The week has been remarkably active for policy, possibly as a result of economies showing signs of heading slowly back to normal. While crisis remains, it seems like everyone has gotten numb to crisis mode.

Recent news has been quite kind to crypto all over the world. We may in fact be seeing a trend that many predicted back in March when COVID-19 lockdowns first took hold. Beyond the immediate importance that a disease that can be transmitted by cash gave to digital payments — or even the need to send money to hundreds of millions of people at once — the moral seems to be: On the road to economic recovery, regulators are willing to get creative. Bullish news for tech in general, crypto in particular.

At the same time, given both the ongoing protests over racism in the U.S. and globally — happy Juneteenth, incidentally — and broader conversations about financial dispossession and inequality, it seems like a good time for this industry to get reflective about how to advance the inclusion that is part of the promise of crypto.

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Telegram returns to the fold

After maintaining a (highly permeable) ban on the popular messaging app for two years, Russia has formally unblocked Telegram.

Roskomnadzor, the country’s telecoms regulator, said that the move was in response to Telegram’s work to stamp out terrorist activity on the encrypted app. This is a disingenuous rewriting of why Telegram fell under a ban in the first place. It also neglects the extensive PR campaign that Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder and Russia’s prodigal son, has run to rehabilitate the app in the country.

Pavel and his brother Nikolai designed Telegram to function as a free outlet in Russia’s restrictive media environment. Political rivals to Putin like Alexei Navalny communicate with their followers via Telegram, a major reason for the app’s popularity in Russia and other countries whose media are subject to censorship.

Though its resistance to censorship has traditionally irked Russia, Telegram may have looked to make amends after running afoul of U.S. regulators. Last month, the U.S. SEC effectively shut down the firm’s planned blockchain network, TON, and forced the return of $1.7 billion gathered for the network’s native GRAM tokens.

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In terms that certainly appealed to Putin’s geopolitical sensibilities, Durov denounced the global hegemony of U.S. authorities, setting the stage for a reconciliation.

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