Bitcoin To Bucks; TikTok’s Algorithms

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Whitney Tilson’s email to investors discussing bitcoin to bucks: crypto fans borrow to buy homes, cars – and more crypto; how TikTok serves up sex and drug videos to minors; saving par.

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Bitcoin to Bucks

1) This kind of foolishness is yet another warning flag that I'm monitoring: Bitcoin to Bucks: Crypto Fans Borrow to Buy Homes, Cars – and More Crypto. Right now, it's still pretty small, so let's hope regulators step in before it becomes a real problem. Excerpt:

Michael Anderson mined bitcoin in his dorm room and left a corporate job to invest in cryptocurrency projects. When he bought his first home in San Francisco this year, he didn't turn to a bank. Instead, he borrowed against his cryptocurrency.

Crypto enthusiasts such as Mr. Anderson are tapping their holdings to buy homes, cars and, often, more crypto. They are getting these loans from upstart nonbank lenders and automated, blockchain-based platforms.

Like banks, these lenders typically take deposits. Unlike banks, their deposits take the form of crypto. The crypto deposits – which earn higher-than-average interest rates – are used to fund loans to borrowers who pledge crypto as collateral. These loans take many forms. Borrowers can get dollars or other traditional currencies, or stablecoins pegged to them, depending on the lender they are working with.

How TikTok Serves Up Sex and Drug Videos to Minors

2) Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for this important piece of investigative journalism exposing TikTok's dangerous algorithms: How TikTok Serves Up Sex and Drug Videos to Minors. Excerpt:

The account was one of dozens of automated accounts, or bots, created by the Wall Street Journal to understand what TikTok shows young users. These bots, registered as users aged 13 to 15, were turned loose to browse TikTok's For You feed, the highly personalized, never-ending feed curated by the algorithm.

An analysis of the videos served to these accounts found that through its powerful algorithms, TikTok can quickly drive minors – among the biggest users of the app – into endless spools of content about sex and drugs.

TikTok served one account registered as a 13-year-old at least 569 videos about drug use, references to cocaine and meth addiction, and promotional videos for online sales of drug products and paraphernalia. Hundreds of similar videos appeared in the feeds of the Journal's other minor accounts.

Alarmingly, this problem isn't limited to TikTok – the algorithms, irrespective of the topic, are similar across the major social media sites. Why? Because it's profitable for them to lead people down rabbit holes (think QAnon, anti-vaxx nonsense, etc.), feeding them more and more extreme content, consequences be damned.

Ironically, TikTok is a Chinese company, yet China wouldn't tolerate this for a millisecond. While I don't think we should adopt anything close to their oppressive system of censorship, we clearly need to rethink our laisse-faire approach...

Saving Par

3) This is a great story in Sports Illustrated: Saving Par. Excerpt:

Jimmy Dunne would have been in the World Trade Center's south tower 20 years ago, if not for golf. The mantra he has adopted since has lifted many, including Tom Brady...

Saturday [September 11] will mark 20 years since Dunne happened to be out of his office when one-third of his firm died in the offices. It will mark 20 years since Dunne began his mission of rebuilding. He's come to accept the randomness of life. Even on this day, he says: "Someone, somewhere is going to die tragically because they stepped on the wrong side of the street. Perfection has long left the building. But if you're living life and you're out and doing things, and you have friends and family, you [can] still find the joy in life."

Best regards,