Every industry, group, clique and conclave has its own share of weirdos — cryptocurrency and blockchain are no exception.
Considering that cryptocurrency is the so-called “native” currency of the internet — the repository of the sum of human knowledge and the eccentricities there contained — the crypto sector is home to perhaps even weirder moments and personalities than more established and traditional industries.
Outside of crypto’s inherently odd character, 2020 itself has shaped up to be a bizarre, if not downright terrible year. Existing socioeconomic problems in countries around the globe were exacerbated by the appearance of the novel coronavirus and governments’ subsequent reactions to it.
Kanye West’s fashion brand received $5 million in coronavirus relief for small businesses. Hackers gatecrashed Zoom meetings. Tiger King became a brief obsession. A bunch of tone-deaf celebrities sang “Imagine” and it was absolutely horrible. The list of the weird and the bad goes on.
Crypto’s 2020 was no exception, with its own fair share of eccentric billionaires, foul-ups, power grabs and political posturing. So, as we say “sayonara” to 2020, let’s take a look at a few of the weirdest moments in crypto this year.
The crypto presidents
This year has been a big one for cryptocurrency adoption. Major financial firms have gone in on Bitcoin (BTC), with sizeable allocations and investments by banks and mutual funds.
As crypto becomes an increasingly mainstream financial instrument, it has attracted the admiration and ire of those in the halls of power. Proponents reached toward regulatory approval while suspicious politicians across the global sought to clamp down on crypto.
It should come as no surprise, then, that some in the crypto community tried to influence the regulatory discourse on cryptocurrencies. A select few, however, sought to do so as President of the United States of America.
American computer scientist and well-known eccentric John McAfee announced his own presidential run as the “crypto candidate” in 2018. However, things got even more interesting as he took to running his campaign from abroad as he supposedly fled capture by U.S. authorities pursuing him on tax charges. Operations were reportedly helped along by an eye-patched campaign manager.
McAfee frequently stated that he was only running for president to raise awareness about cryptocurrency, and never expected to win.
In May 2020, McAfee threw in the towel on his presidential bid, instead running for vice presidency, as the Libertarian Party in which he sought his nomination allows a vice president candidate to run separately.
Brock Pierce, a former child actor and crypto venture capitalist jumped into the presidential race relatively late, in the summer of 2020.
A co-founder of Block.one, the organization that created EOS, Pierce was featured on British comedian John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, where Oliver drew attention to the former’s eccentric spiritual take on EOS and his unicorn-themed wedding at the legendary U.S. art festival, Burning Man.
Pierce’s strategy and overall campaign image was far more tempered than that of McAfee. In addition to running on a platform prioritizing the development of digital currencies, he also had clear policies on a variety of other relevant issues, including criminal justice reform, universal earned income and healthcare.
As we well know, neither man won. Pierce has largely gone radio silent after the campaign’s conclusion, and McAfee is reportedly residing in a Spanish jail, so there will be no unicorn-themed parties in the Rose Garden, and no one will be smoking bath salts in the Roosevelt Room.
The drama at Bitmain
The details of corporate leadership are often unknown to the layman, as the major decisions and conversations all take place behind closed doors. One imagines Machiavellian takeovers and sycophants vying to get a rung up on the ladder, like in Billions or The Wolf of Wall Street.
The case of Bitmain, one of the largest producers of Bitcoin mining hardware, would appear to follow this stereotype.
In a story that is so dramatic it could have been written for TV, the once-friends and co-founders of the Bitcoin mining giant were locked in a bitter power struggle over the company, affecting its basic operations.
In October of last year, Bitmain co-founder Micree Zhan was ousted from the company in an attempt to “save the ship” by the firm’s other co-founder, Jihan Wu.
The conflict reportedly started due to Zhan’s supposedly disproportionate control over the company. He allegedly owned twice as many stocks in the firm as Wu, but the shares were downgraded as the drama began to unfold.
In May 2020, Bitmain issued statements confirming rumors that Zhan had been ousted from the company. Zhan subsequently sued Bitmain, and Wu ordered all employees to either sever contact with him or face punishment.
Armed guards reportedly appeared at the firm’s Beijing offices at Zhan’s behest in order to establish himself as a legal representative of the company. While Wu condemned the takeover, Zhan appears to have achieved some success, as he forbade employees to complete shipments of mining rigs.
Bitmain maintained that Zhan had no right to represent the company legally, but in June, he offered to buy out the company for $4 billion in shares. He appears to have been successful in changing the firm’s payments details to entities he controls, but hardware shipments still suffered and 10,000 mining rigs controlled by the firm went “missing” in Mongolia.
The Bitmain leadership struggle has yet to conclude, so we may look forward to more weird twists and turns in 2021.
The great Twitter hack of 2020...
July 15, 2020 is a day that will live on in infamy for social media giant Twitter, as the accounts of famous politicians, businesspeople and media figures were hacked and used for a Bitcoin giveaway scam.
The pages of Elon Musk, Kanye West, President-Elect Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were all compromised and sent out posts with one of the oldest crypto scams in the book.
In the crypto giveaway scam, a supposedly magnanimous individual claims to be sharing their wealth via Bitcoin. One only needs to send a small amount to their listed address so that they can ascertain what your address is, and send you a sum worth far more than your initial transfer.
Most people with a passing familiarity with crypto are aware of this kind of scam, but some that are new to the space, or don’t know about crypto at all, apparently don’t think it all weird that Barack Obama wants to give them Bitcoin, and thus fall victim to the scheme.
Elon Musk’s hacked crypto account. Source: Cointelegraph
In addition to the aforementioned famous faces, hackers also compromised the accounts of prominent players in the crypto space, including major exchanges Binance, Coinbase and Gemini, as well as protocols like Tron.
While Twitter responded immediately by locking the affected blue-check accounts, the damage had already been done. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed his own lamentations on the platform.
Rumors and speculation that the hack was an inside job were quelled when Twitter released a report on the incident, revealing that employees with broad administrative privileges had been victims of a spear-phishing attack.
While doppelganger accounts of famous individuals are often created to execute scams, the Twitter hack this year set a new precedent for the lengths scammers are willing to go to on social media platforms.
The $1 million bounty that never was
Never one to shy away from a good publicity stunt, Tron founder and BitTorrent CEO Justin Sun offered a $1 million dollar bounty to whoever could track down the parties responsible for the Twitter hack.
However, when reporters attempted to work with Tron in tracking down the scammers, the company miraculously failed to follow through on its high-profile promise.
After an individual approached a Cointelegraph reporter with highly credible information regarding the potential hackers, Cointelegraph attempted to put the individual in touch with Tron in order to pass on this info.
Tron, however, seemed utterly disinterested in talking to the source, instead insisting that the source get Cointelegraph’s stamp of approval before making its own examination. In its correspondence with both Cointelegraph and the source, it seemed like the company was trying to get out of paying the bounty. One group chat went as follows:
“Source: Whenever [you] are free, we could hop in a Zoom or Discord call and explain everything to you guys.
Tron representative: No we can chat right here go ahead.
Source: It’s a lot, much easier over a voice call.
Tron representative: Not happening.”
Instead, Tron set up an email account for tips, while major papers reported deep dives into the hack four days after Cointelegraph and the source had initially approached Tron. Tron later claimed that an FBI investigation into the incident was sufficient cause to terminate the bounty.
Tron’s behavior did seem rather odd, given its proposed goals, in addition to being rather convenient, as it didn’t need to pay out the generous sum.
Price predictions abound in the crypto space. Experts and analysts have predicted a Bitcoin bull run leading the coin to $100,000 during this cycle, and perhaps as high as $1 million by 2035. One Citibank analyst recently predicted a Bitcoin price of over $300,000 in 2021.
However, there is one particular price prediction that earns a spot on the weird-list this year. John McAfee, whom we already know as affirmed eccentric within the crypto space, made a bet three years ago that could be rather painful if he actually delivers.
In 2017, McAfee bet that Bitcoin would hit $500,000 by 2020, and if not, he would eat his own genitalia on television. As the 2017 bull run gained steam, however, he upped his bet.
The event, which has become known as The Dickening and earned its own countdown clock, is now less than two weeks away.
So, all Bitcoin price needs to do for McAfee to avoid a rude luncheon is to increase by almost 5,000% in the next several days. Perhaps it’s a good thing his bet isn’t locked into a smart contract.
The year to come
As 2020 comes to a close, one thing is clear: The cryptocurrency space is growing and adoption will continue to increase throughout 2021 and the years to come. As the industry thrives, the weirdos contained therein will likely continue to shock and entertain both insiders and observers.