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When NFTs Put Lives on the Line

When NFTs Put Lives on the Line

The Alpha:

  • An alleged “terrorist sympathizer” just minted an ISIS announcement — along with two pieces of ISIS propaganda — as NFTs, according to an initial report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
  • Since their discovery on public NFT marketplaces Rarible and OpenSea, the “terror NFTs” have been delisted.
  • As part of the WSJ report, intelligence experts believe terror groups could use blockchain technology to raise funding for terror campaigns.

Why it matters:

So why mint these “terror NFT” in the first place? It’s all about the blockchain. The alleged “terrorist sympathizer” may have turned to NFTs due to their inherently immutable and inalterable properties, according to the WSJ report. Despite being taken down from public NFT marketplaces, these illicit NFTs remain fixed within their respective blockchains. All it would take to access these images once more is knowledge of their specific addresses, and they’re free to be distributed once more.

This was corroborated by an interview Cointelegraph held with Jihadoscope Co-Founder Raphael Gluck, who referred to these images as “an experiment […] to find ways to make content indestructible.” Jihadoscope was the first to discover the NFTs, posting its discovery on social media late in August 2022.

What’s next:

Nonprofit organizations have long utilized NFTs and blockchain technology to raise much-needed funding for all sorts of noble causes, worldwide. Even the Ukrainian government has called on NFTs to help fund its defense efforts in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Unfortunately, the openness inherent to NFTs has also invited bad actors to take advantage of this new decentralized means of acquiring funding. The decentralized aspect of this means of fundraising is key. Through this, organizations — even small countries — could harness the power of this technology to gather funds from all over the world, even without proper trade and diplomatic relations with more cash-flush nations.

The world economy has taken a harsh stance against countries under unsavory leadership for decades, if not longer. Take the ongoing mass exodus in Venezuela, for example. Lacking proper diplomatic relations with the U.S., not even the promises of economic growth from its new leadership could provide hundreds and thousands of citizens the confidence to remain there long-term. Situations like these run counter to the promise of a decentralized world the blockchain hopes to achieve — and give desperate actors further motivation to engage with it.

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