Clickbait journalism on “crypto” hurts newbies and helps scammers
The rise and fall of the random memecoin “Squid Games” illustrates the irresponsibleness of mainstream media.
The South Korean Netflix show Squid Game is a global phenomenon. The story about indebted contestants trapped in a cruel survival game sparked many think pieces, calling the show an “allegory of capitalist hell” that “savagely satirises our money-obsessed society”.
What’s better than writing think pieces about a show that criticises capitalism but, in the end, turns into a massive global phenomenon that fuels the success of a hyper-capitalistic organisation like Netflix? Right, a cryptocurrency based on the show that ruins investors instead of making them rich.
Too good to be true? Not at all. On Friday, October 29th, stories in big legacy media started to pop up. The BBC wrote “Squid Game cryptocurrency rockets in first few days of trading”, CNBC published a report titled “There’s a ‘Squid Game’ cryptocurrency – and it’s up nearly 2,400% in the last 24 hours”, Fortune.com posted “‘Squid Game’ crypto is up more than 86,000% in a week”. Hundreds of other media outlets and blogs picked up the story. While the BBC at least mentioned the extreme risk and shadiness involved in the particular token, CNBC mentioned the risk very briefly to dig deeper into the gamification aspects of the token.
In a too-good-to-be-true fashion, the Squid Game token spiked on November 1st and eventually went to zero on the same day.
On November 2nd, the BBC published “Squid Game crypto token collapses in an apparent scam”, and Fortune.com wrote a piece called “‘Squid Game’ crypto loses virtually all its value overnight after huge spikes” (and embedded a Tweet by crypto bear Mr Whale showing a random guy “watching his life savings go to zero”). CNBC didn’t even bother to inform their readers that the scam they made them aware of had just vanished a couple of days prior.
The simple conclusion to all this is that media outlets desperately hunting for clicks become part of the story themselves. By reporting on meaningless, random, scammy crypto tokens like Squid Game (which, of course, has no affiliation with Netflix at all), they give them precisely the exposure the scammers want. Clueless newbies who have heard that “memecoins” are the new hot shit and maybe even believe that Squid Game is somehow an official Netflix token (who knows) are the best victims those scammers can imagine.
The last act of this tragic play is that when the price crashes and the scammers cash out, the conclusion usually is that “crypto” as an undefined term of anything that has something to do with digital assets is dangerous, shady, scammy (which is true).
That’s why, in general, is important to boil it down and differentiate between Bitcoin and “crypto”. But that’s a topic for another newsletter.
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