Media problems with web 3

in March The New York Times He published an article that presented himself as a “guide for crypto newcomers,” the sector associated with blockchain and its applications, from cryptocurrencies to non-fung tokens (NFT). The author of the article, technology journalist Kevin Rose, specifies that he has been following the sector for ten years now and that he knows how polarized the debate is between those who think it “saves the world” and those who think it is. It is a “scam”. What was missing, according to Rose, was “a sober, cold explanation of what cryptocurrency really is: how it works, and to whom it is directed.”

Despite the illustrative and impartial intent, the guide caused a lot of discussion. Some observers who are particularly skeptical about these technologies have deemed them inaccurate in emphasizing the importance and risks associated with cryptocurrencies. Molly White, programmer and author of the following blog Web3 works greatwhere he collected news about the problems of Web3, a hypothetical new version of the Internet in which cryptocurrencies will be an important part, responded to the article with a “corrected” version in which more than a dozen experts participated.

According to them, Rose’s article was “a thinly veiled advertisement about cryptocurrencies that didn’t seem to have received the right amount of fact-checking or editorial scrutiny,” and ended up “repeating many questionable or completely false arguments.” reporter from The New York Times He responded to the criticism by stressing the importance of being open to this sector without preconceptions or excessive pessimism. In a now-deleted tweet, he compared today’s crypto situation to the state of social media over the past decade, when “skeptics” became convinced that social networks would never work, and shrugged them off “only to realize they had big problems.” According to the author, excessive skepticism and criticism will be counterproductive if one is to understand and solve the problems plaguing an emerging sector.

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The idea that the media has taken a blindly skeptical attitude towards the sector is widespread among cryptocurrency advocates. However, upon closer examination, the media appears to have played an active, if often involuntary, role in its rise, generating interest and enthusiasm – the noise, as they usually say in English – the media that helped spread it. In June 2011, the site clumsy For example, he published an article on Silk Road, a “dark web” marketplace that the FBI later shut down in 2014, presented as “the place to buy every property imaginable.”

Although his intent was purely journalistic, the author of the article, Adrian Chen, ended up drawing a lot of curiosity to Bitcoin, the trading currency of the Silk Road, in order to raise its price from $9 to $32 a week. Among the people who learned about Bitcoin thanks to clumsy There was also Vitalik Buterin, the future creator of Ethereum, which is today the second most used blockchain in the world.

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The history of Bitcoin and the entire crypto sector can be seen as a series of involuntary advertisements similar to this one, consisting of articles and publications, often on the basis of particularly triumphant and inaccurate press releases, in a circle of contributing content. To increase curiosity about this world. Even in those cases where newspapers seemed unable to explain the current and potential benefits of technologies like blockchainoften defined in ambiguous and hypothetical terms.

This mechanism is not just about the media. In the past couple of years, for example, entrepreneur Elon Musk has demonstrated that he can influence the market through his Twitter profile, causing the value of Bitcoin to grow and also Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that was born as a parody of the sector but soon became the subject of speculation. This is what the reporter Bloomberg Austin Carr called Elon Musk’s “hype cycle,” which consists of: “starting with incredible promises, followed by delays, a hellish phase of production, shareholder anger, and finally, redemption.” A valuable ally, in this cycle of interest, is precisely the world of media, which faithfully conveyed the ambitious statements of its companies, not always with the necessary amount of criticism.

Musk has also pioneered a new group of celebrities, actors, and musicians who have publicly endorsed crypto products, especially NFTs, over the past year. Back in January, Paris Hilton was a guest on Jimmy Fallon-hosted US TV show, where the two talked about one last passion they share: NFTs, particularly the Bored Ape Yacht Club line. The result was one surreal exchange that didn’t seem to impress the audience in the hall, and it was mocked widely online.

The list of famous people who have approached NFTs also includes Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Logan Paul, Eminem, and Keanu Reeves, among others. However, the interest is not always real: As journalist Max Reed put it back, in fact, some of these figures are represented by the management agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which has recently invested in OpenSea, the main exchange platform from NFT (Witherspoon is married to an agent CAA). Actor Ashton Kutcher, another industry advocate, has also invested in OpenSea through his company Sound Ventures, which has financial links with particularly successful NFT lines among Hollywood personalities, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club and World of Women.

– Read also: Celebrities have become addicted to NFTs

But if the conflict of interest between investors and public figures in the crypto sector mainly concerns the world of entertainment, then it is also present in the press. Already in 2017, journalist Adrianne Jeffries on the site chart He argued that “perhaps everyone in the media industry owns Bitcoin,” a factor that alone has undermined the independence of judgment over these sources of information.

Several industry publications have arisen about blockchain and its applications, which in most cases do not state ethical rules regarding investments. Jeffries writes that “the conflict of interest between investors, advertisers and sources is wrapped up in the uncensored world of the bitcoin press, and almost everyone has the same incentive. If bitcoin grows, this whole small industry is making money.”

Rose himself, in 2021, had conducted first-hand experiments with the sector by turning one of his articles into The New York Times On NFT, it was sold for 300 ether, or about half a million dollars (today it’s worth $330,000), and then donated to a newspaper charitable fund. After several months News agencyOne of the world’s most famous and authoritative news outlets has announced the sale of an NFT “memorial” photograph of the Anja Niedringhaus, depicting a migrant ship in the middle of the Mediterranean seen from above. After much protest and criticism, the project was withdrawn from AP.

In this sense, it seems that the cryptocurrency sector is amplifying and deflecting the logic of another world that owes part of its success tothe noise Media: technological and digital. In recent months, as several companies starting with Meta – the company that controls Facebook and Instagram – have presented their rather impressive plans for the virtual world, the virtual world in which they plan to move part of people’s work and private lives, it has often happened that The media adopted these statements without putting them in context and giving them the correct proportions. In short, it may have seemed to many that metaverses are imminent and inevitable, when at the moment, in fact, it really does not exist.

In an analysis published by NiemanLab, a site that deals with issues related to journalism, researchers Lee Vinsel and Jeffrey Funk explain how a certain type of enthusiastic and naive coverage ended up creating a “false optimism” capable of adapting the market. One implication of this is that corporate prices are much higher than they were in the 1990s, even if “new businesses are simply less profitable than they used to be.”

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Media attention associated with the investment model of owners of capital, which invests large sums while taking large risks, has given rise to start-up companies with great social and economic impact, but are unable to reap profits. The symbol of this type of company is Uber, which has accumulated losses estimated at about 30 billion dollars in its short life. According to the authors, “most of these companies will never get out of the hole they dug,” but thanks to a strong narrative, and an ambitious, albeit unsustainable, mission, they continue to impress investors.

Thanks to today’s economic context, especially the punitive punitiveness of companies in the technology sector, “the machinethe noise The technology targeted the saddest technologies of all: NFTs, Web 3.0, and the Facebook metaverse.” The cryptocurrency, according to Vinsel and Funk, has shifted media and economic interest toward new goals after other particularly fervent innovations, such as self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, lost their luster.

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