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Social media platform WeChat and many others in China are tightly controlled, and when it comes to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they all follow the official line. Photo: iStock

Crypto asset markets have remained buoyant this week despite the news that Binance, the world’s largest exchange, suffered a US$40 million hack this week. In the past, major exchange breaches have caused markets to plummet, but this week Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies seemed to shrug off the bad news as markets reached a new 2019 capitalization high of almost $190 billion, and Bitcoin broke the psychological $6,000 barrier on Thursday, the same day as the Binance hack.

Binance boss Changpeng “CZ” Zhao announced that the firm would refund all the lost 7,000 Bitcoins out of a company fund set up to cover for such incidents. Binance also suggested a “rollback” of the Bitcoin blockchain to undo the fraudulent transaction, but this was soon shot down by most of the crypto community, who argue Bitcoin must be kept immutable.

Chinese social media platform WeChat has bowed to further pressure from Beijing by reportedly announcing that it will be banning all crypto related payments by the end of May. The payment service agreement was updated to prohibit all dealings or discussions on virtual currencies and tokens. The new rulings will result in the banning of merchant accounts if they service any crypto token project or fund. The Tencent-owned chat app blocked crypto and blockchain-related media outlets from its platform last August.

Still in China, widely read US-based markets blog Zerohedge has tied the recent surge in Bitcoin and crypto markets with a report that Chinese banks may be running out of dollars. It cites a SCMP report which claims that authorities in China have quietly begun “soft” capital controls on foreign currency withdrawals. As the trade war intensifies Chinese banks have started limiting USD withdrawals, which could be forcing people into other safe haven stores of wealth such as Bitcoin. Trading cryptos has been banned in China since late 2017, but investors can still get their Bitcoin fixes via over the counter (OTC) or peer to peer trading.

India also seems to be continuing with its crackdown on cryptos, which is seeing more exchanges seeking friendlier climes in which to operate. Zebpay was forced to close its doors to Indian customers last October, due to a national banking ban preventing crypto-related deposits and withdrawals. The exchange, now headquartered in Singapore, has now announced the launch of a crypto trading services in Australia. Zebpay has acquired a license from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the country’s finance regulator, and opened an office in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s central bank is pushing ahead with its cryptocurrency efforts with the launch of a prototype blockchain platform. Bank of Thailand’s tech partner Wipro announced that the solution will enable the BoT to use a cryptocurrency to settle interbank transactions between its eight commercial banking partners, which include Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai, Siam Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank (Thailand) and HSBC. The project dubbed lnthanon will be based on the Corda platform developed by blockchain firm R3. The prototype has demonstrated that blockchain technology can significantly enhance payment and transfer speeds and efficiency between banks.

Three of South Korea’s largest crypto exchanges, Korbit, CPDAX and GOPAX, have partnered with CrossAngle to improve their token listing processes. The firm has developed a data disclosure platform called Xangle, which says it will aim to tackle the lack of credible and comprehensive data for crypto token projects. This will help exchanges make more informed decisions while also avoiding scams and pump and dump schemes. CrossAngle will provide due diligence reports and the exchanges can decide on whether to list the tokens for trade or not.

Facebook has made a U-turn on its crypto advertising ban by allowing crypto related ads back on its platform. The social media giant first censored crypto advertising in January 2018 during the ICO boom. According to a report by crypto advisory Statis Group, more than 80% of token sales were fraudulent and Facebook did not want to take the risk of allowing them to advertise. It did not make any real attempt to block spammers or scammers from using the platform from their own accounts, however.

Facebook will reportedly launch its own blockchain project, with a cryptocurrency based payment system later this year.

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