Autor Cointelegraph By Luke Huigsloot

45% of ETH validators now complying with US sanctions — Labrys CEO

According to the CEO of blockchain development agency Labrys, Lachan Feeney, approximately 45% of all Ethereum blocks currently being validated run MEV-boost relay flashbots and comply with United States sanctions.Speaking to Cointelegraph in an interview on Sept. 30, Feeney noted that while reports have stated that 25% of all blocks validated since the Merge complies with US sanctions, this is a lagging indicator and the current number is likely to be closer to one out of every two blocks.Feeney pointed out that MEV-Boost relays are regulated businesses, often U.S. based, and are “censoring certain transactions in the blocks that they build, particularly transactions from Tornado Cash.” The CEO also pointed out validators have a financial incentive to use MEV-Boost relays, which would drive an uptick in their usage, noting:“The issue, is that from the validators perspective, these guys are paying them to sort of do this. So if you want to make more money, you just turn this feature on and as a validator, you sort of boost your yield.”MEV-Boost relays are centralized entities dedicated to efficient Maximal Extractable Value (MEV) extraction. With Flashbots being the most popular, MEV-Boost relays effectively allow validators to outsource block production and sell the right to build a block to the highest bidder.Labrys released an MEV Watch tool on Sept. 28, which can inform validators about which MEV-Boost relays comply with Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions. Referring to the motivation behind the tool, Feeney said:“we’re just trying to raise some awareness for those who are unaware that by running this software, they are potentially contributing to censorship of the network.”Feeney noted a worst-case situation often referred to as hard censorship, where “nodes would be forced by regulation to basically discard any blocks with any of these transactions in them.”“That would mean no matter how long you waited, no matter how much you paid, you would never get to a point where those sanctioned transactions would get included in the blockchain,” he explained.He also pointed out that even in the event of soft censorship, where sanctioned transactions would eventually be validated, it could take hours and require a high priority fee, resulting in a sub-par user experience.Related: MEV bot earns $1M but loses everything to a hacker an hour laterThese findings are reinforced by Ethereum researcher Toni Wahrstätter, who published research on Sept. 28 suggesting that of the 19,436 blocks verified by the Flashbots Mev-Boost Relay, none included a Tornado cash transaction.How many blocks from different MEV Boost Relays contain Tornado Cash transactions. Source: Toni Wahrstätter.Censorship fears were prevalent before The Merge. Speaking to Cointelegraph, the lead investigator for crypto compliance and forensic firm Merkle Science, Coby Moran, suggested the prohibitive cost of becoming a validator could result in the consolidation of validator nodes to the bigger crypto firms — who are much more susceptible to being influenced by government sanctions.

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BlackRock’s newest ETF invests in 35 blockchain-related companies

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has just launched a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) providing European customers with exposure to the blockchain industry, while reports indicate a Metaverse-focused ETF may be on the way. The new blockchain ETF launched on Sept. 27 is called the iShares Blockchain Technology UCITS ETF (BLKC). BlackRock said 75% of its holdings consist of blockchain companies such as miners and exchanges, while the other 25% are companies that support the blockchain ecosystem.The fund includes 35 global companies out of a total of 50 holdings, which also includes fiat cash and derivatives, but does not directly invest in cryptocurrencies.BLKC marks the latest of a series of moves into the digital assets space for BlackRock, with the most recent being the launch of a private spot Bitcoin trust on Aug. 11. In a Sept. 29 report from Finextra, product strategist for thematic and sector ETFs at BlackRock, Omar Moufti, said the ETF will “allow our clients the opportunity to engage with global companies leading the development of the emerging blockchain ecosystem,” adding: “We believe digital assets and blockchain technologies are going to become increasingly relevant for our clients as use cases develop in scope, scale and complexity.”The top 5 holdings in the fund are Coinbase (13.20%), USD cash (13.00%), fintech firm Block (11.40%), crypto mining firms Marathon Digital Holdings (11.13%) and Riot Blockchain (10.50%).Other holdings include 23 IT companies, six financial companies, one industrials company, and one communications company, with 50 holdings in total as of Sept. 28.However, a Bloomberg report on Sept. 29 suggests that BlackRock may be working on another ETF — focused on the Metaverse, called the iShares Future Metaverse Tech and Communications ETF. Related: Wealth managers and VCs are helping drive institutional crypto adoption — Wave Financial execsThe report said that the fund’s fees and ticker are not yet listed, but might include “firms that have products or services tied to virtual platforms, social media, gaming, digital assets, augmented reality and more.”The Metaverse ETF follows insights published on Feb. 14 from BlackRock Technology Opportunities Fund co-portfolio manager Reid Menge, who labeled the Metaverse a “revolution in the making.”‘Metaverse’ mentions in company transcripts. Source: BlackRock Market Minute citing Morgan Stanley, 2021.On Aug. 4 Coinbase announced that it had entered into a partnership with BlackRock and appears to be reaping the rewards of the partnership with its high weighting in BLKC.The partnership gives institutional investors the ability to access crypto through its Coinbase Prime service.

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UAE Ministry of Economy opens up new headquarters in the Metaverse

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Economy has announced a new headquarters located where anyone in the world can visit — the Metaverse. According to Gulf News, the announcement was made on Sept. 28 by UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri during the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, with the minister stating “this is not a proof of concept, this is our third address” before giving a live tour of the virtual headquarters.The headquarters will feature a multiple story building, each serving a different purpose. Visitors will be able to take a ticket, which will prompt a “customer happiness center employee” to join the Metaverse and interact with the visitor.[embedded content]Footage from the Dubai Metaverse Assembly. Source: Gulf NewsThe new headquarters will complement the ministry’s two existing offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, allowing the ministry to make digital services a bigger part of its operations following directives to do so from UAE leadership.Related: From the valley to oasis: Swiss and Dubai crypto associations team upVisitors to the virtual headquarters will be able to sign legally binding documents, which eliminates the need for signatories to visit one of their physical locations in order to provide their signatures.The headquarters also contains an auditorium that can facilitate virtual conferences and other events and meeting rooms that allow users to share a screen. The announcement follows Dubai’s government’s Metaverse strategy revealed on Jul. 18, which aims to create virtual 40,000 jobs by 2030 and support the government’s vision of increasing the number of blockchain companies to five times the current number.

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CTFC commissioner proposes office focused on retail crypto investors

Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner (CFTC) Caroline Pham has proposed the creation of an “Office of the Retail Advocate” aimed at expanding the CFTC’s consumer protection mandate.Pham referred to the office as a “voice for the people” in a speech given at an event hosted by blockchain project Corda on Sept. 27, suggesting recent events in crypto make retail protection a more pressing issue, noting:“The crypto crash, risk management failures, and substantial retail losses, gives urgency to the need to balance innovation with retail protection and appropriate regulation.”Pham has modeled the proposed office on the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Office of the Investor Advocate, stating it’s a “tried-and-true way” to advance customer protection.The SEC’s office has four core functions according to Pham, which are to provide investors a say in policymaking, assist retail investors resolve problems with the SEC or self-regulatory organizations, support advisory committees, along with studying investor behavior and conducting research and economic analysis.Pham highlighted the potential of digital assets and blockchains to change existing markets outlining “ten fundamentals for responsible digital asset markets,” noting:“It might still be early, but there are promising use cases if we can achieve blockchain stability and scalability across layer 1, 2, or whatever’s next.”These fundamentals include initially determining whether something is a security, mitigating systemic risks such as the cascading liquidations due to the collapse of Terra, protection of customers and the retail public, ensuring transparency, and addressing conflicts of interest.The proposal marks the latest effort in a broader push from the CFTC to increase its authority over crypto markets and follows calls from the community and United States lawmakers seeking clarity on the regulation of crypto.Related: CFTC Commissioner Kristin Johnson touts DCCPA bill in market risk advisory meetingThe CFTC has been under fire recently following its “regulation by enforcement” over the Ooki DAO case, with the community comparing it to the regulation by enforcement tactics seen in the SEC’s handling of the ongoing Ripple case.Pham said these views are hers and are not necessarily shared by the CFTC or other commissioners.

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1M Aussies will enter crypto over the next 12 months — Swyftx survey

Approximately one million Australians will purchase cryptocurrency for the first time over the next 12 months — bringing total crypto ownership in the country to over five million — according to a newly released survey.The findings came from the second Annual Australian Crypto Survey by Australian crypto exchange Swyftx, which was conducted by research firm YouGov.The survey questioned 2,609 Australians over 18 years of age in early July, with 548 of the survey sample identified as current holders of cryptocurrency.The report stated that despite the current “Crypto Winter” which has seen approximately $2 trillion in assets wiped from the digital assets market over the course of the last year, Australian crypto ownership has grown 4% year-on-year, reaching 21% in 2022. According to the report, this figure is set to increase by another one million new crypto owners in 2023, while at least one-quarter of Australians are planning to buy crypto over the next 12 months, with Millenials, Gen Zers, Aussie parents, and those in full-time work most likely to buy. Source: Annual Australian Crypto Survey, SwyftxThis finding is broadly in line with recent data from a bitcoin processor suggesting the crypto winter isn’t holding back widespread adoption and comments from crypto exchange CoinJar’s head of content Luke Ryan claiming that sports sponsorship is helping legitimize crypto in Australia.Commenting on the bullish figures for crypto adoption and ownership, Swyftx’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, Tommy Honan told Cointelegraph: “On the basis of current growth trajectories in the use of digital assets, we expect half of the adults under 50 in Australia to own or have owned crypto within the next one to two years.”However, Honan said there were also a lot of variables that make forecasting adoption “fiendishly difficult,” adding: “The expectation is that we’ll see crypto move into the regulated space next year and, all other things being equal, you’d expect that to trigger growth in adoption, but it isn’t a given.”Honan said the rate of adoption may slow over the next 12 months before recovering again as market conditions improve. “The bear market has knocked confidence […] Confidence can take the stairs up and the lifts down, so we are going to have to wait and see how quickly the market takes to stabilize,” he noted. According to the survey, lack of sound regulation was revealed as the biggest deterrent to investing in crypto for those who have not yet done so, along with a lack of knowledge about how crypto works, and overall market volatility. Related: Institutional investors headed for a tipping point on crypto — Apollo CapitalThis finding is reinforced by recent comments from the former head of risk at Credit Suisse CK Zheng, who believes the next crypto bull run will be a result of “regulatory clarity” in the United States.In a comment to Cointelegraph Swyftx co-CEO Ryan Parsons said the report shows there’s clear demand among Australians to purchase and use crypto, but that a “material factor” for crypto hesitancy remains regulation. “The drumbeat for defined rules is growing and it will continue to grow if adoption of digital assets increases at its current rate. As this report shows, there’s clear demand among Australians to purchase and use crypto. It is imperative we meet this demand responsibly.”

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