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Russia set to try again with blockchain voting despite earlier setbacks

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Russian telecommunication giant Rostelekom, together with the Russian Ministry of Digital Development and Communications, tested a blockchain-based voting system developed in collaboration with Waves Enterprise.

As local news outlets reported, the preliminary test involved 30,000 people who were trying out the platform’s functionality and technical capabilities. According to Rostelekom spokespeople, the system worked as intended during the test and did not fail under high load. 

Votes were reportedly counted in less than one minute through homomorphic encryption systems. This method allows calculations to result in the same output even if the underlying data remains encrypted.

Officials noted that the test helped them to identify some usability issues. They have since pledged that the feedback will be used to make the platform more accessible and intuitive.

The platform will be used for a partial parliamentary election in the Kursk and Yaroslavl regions on from Sep. 11 through 13. An additional mock election will be conducted on Aug. 31 as a final check of the system before its live deployment.

This is a continuation of Russia’s blockchain voting experiments, first conducted in 2019 for the Moscow local elections and then in June 2020 for the controversial constitutional amendment referendum.

The platform used for the upcoming election was developed in collaboration with Waves Enterprise and it is a completely independent product from previous iterations.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, the Bitfury-developed platform used in the June election suffered from major performance issues, security bugs, allegations of fraud, and an alleged lack of transparency.

While Waves assured Cointelegraph in earlier interviews that their system does not contain backdoors, critics of the previous system argued that if it cannot be validated by external observers, blockchain offers precious few improvements over a centralized e-voting system.



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Regulation

El Salvadorians take to the streets to protest Bitcoin law

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Protesters calling themselves the Popular Resistance and Rebellion Block have come out against El Salvador’s government passing a law making Bitcoin legal tender.

A Tuesday tweet from local news outlet El Mundo shows El Salvadorians carrying banners saying “no to Bitcoin” in the streets of San Salvador demanding a repeal of the country’s Bitcoin law. Legislative assembly members Anabel Belloso and Dina Argueta addressed the protesters after first meeting the group separated by a barrier of razor wire.

In a letter made available at the protest, the Popular Resistance and Rebellion Block group claimed that President Nayib Bukele passed the law making the cryptocurrency legal tender in the country without proper consultations with the people. It also cited the volatility of Bitcoin (BTC), comparing investing in the cryptocurrency to playing the lottery: “betting on the lottery is a voluntary act, while Bitcoin is required by law.”

Related: Coercion and coexistence: How El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law may change global finance

However, the group’s main grievance around the Bitcoin legal framework seemed to be centered around a perceived disparity in the cryptocurrency’s usage by the government when compared with the average resident in El Salvador. Protesters said Bitcoin “only serves some large businessmen, especially those linked to the government, to launder ill-gotten money.”

“Entrepreneurs who put their capital in Bitcoin will not pay taxes on their earnings,” said the letter. “In addition, to apply Bitcoin the government will spend millions of dollars of the taxes paid by the people.”

They added:

“Bitcoin would facilitate public corruption and the operations of drug, arms and human traffickers, extortionists and tax evaders. It would also cause monetary chaos. It would hit people’s salaries, pensions and savings, ruin many MSMEs, affect low-income families and hit the middle class.”

Though passed by El Salvador’s government and signed into law by Bukele in June, the law recognizing Bitcoin as legal currency in the country will not go into effect until Sept. 7. The Popular Resistance and Rebellion Block’s protest was aimed at government officials to demand the law be repealed. In addition, the World Bank has also refused to help El Salvador transition to a Bitcoin-friendly framework, given its “environmental and transparency shortcomings.”

Related: What is really behind El Salvador’s ‘Bitcoin Law’? Experts answer

During a scheduled visit by the U.S. State Department earlier this month, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland suggested El Salvador ensure Bitcoin is well regulated and transparent, but did not explicitly say anything against the country’s move to a more digital economy. Some proponents of the law including Bukele have suggested Bitcoin could help facilitate remittance payments from El Salvador citizens living abroad and lessen the country’s reliance on the U.S. dollar.