Bitcoin, the digital currency, is still a little mysterious to most people. The peer-to-peer payment network can be earned by "mining," or maintaining critical infrastructure for the network, as well as through goods, services and traditional currencies. A federal judge in Texas recently ruled bitcoins are money.
The first ever Texas Bitcoin Conference begins this week in Austin. The conference hopes to engage and educate the public, demystifying the online currency by talking about future regulation, better accountability, and how to connect Bitcoin with entrepreneurs.
Despite exploding in value last year by nearly 1,000 percent from $13 to nearly $1,300 before falling by half in the past few months, most people associate Bitcoin with recent scandal.
It is currently weathering disaster with MtGox, the Bitcoin exchange, collapsing. This comes on the heals of the arrest of Charles Shrem, one of the highest-profile Bitcoin advocates for drug-related money laundering as well as operating an unlicensed money transmitting service.
The 24-year-old Shrem denies the charges and says that he is being prosecuted due to the bad actions of an associate. Despite being under house arrest as a result of Bitcoin transactions, Shrem believes that the currency will continue to thrive.
Bitcoin is accepted as real money at some nonprofits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group. Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, made a splash by being the biggest-named politician to accept them. A handful of brick and mortar stores in Texas are accepting them also.
Problems persist though, begging the question: Are they growing pains or big red flags?
- Paul Snow, president of Texas Bitcoin Association
- Charles Shrem, Bitcoin evangelist, entrepreneur, former board member of the Bitcoin Foundation
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