We often smirk at mainstream media’s coverage of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. But an article on a supposed scaling solution called “Bitcoin United” in the Huffington Post last week was a real head-scratcher.
A number of different Bitcoin clients have appeared to challenge Bitcoin Core over the past couple of years — XT, Classic and Unlimited to name a few. But most Bitcoiners would be surprised to see a well-known media publication suddenly announce that “Bitcoin United” is set to trump them all.
Bitcoin United, according to writer and internet marketer Michael Taggart, promises over 10,000 transactions a second. Confirmations are three seconds max, and it all runs efficiently on “green energy”. Hmm, OK.
Despite the name and comparison to other scaling solutions, the article notes United is not a fork of Bitcoin at all — it’s actually a separate Bitshares-based project. Taggart says it intends to “gift” tokens called “BTC-U” on a one-to-one basis with BTC holders.
Hopefully this doesn’t mean exchanging one for the other. The writer adds “All you’ll need to do is import your bitcoin keys into the BitShares wallet and claim them!” Again, it doesn’t specify if this is just the public keys — but always remember you should never give your private keys to anyone.
Searching the wider internet, it’s hard to find any information on a “Bitcoin United” anywhere, save for a few Steemit posts and a Reddit thread with no comments. All appeared about the same day as the HuffPost piece.
There’s no GitHub repository, white paper or — most oddly — even a website. Bitsonline reached out to representatives of the Bitshares project, but did not receive a response. However Bitshares itself is an open platform and has little control over what users build there.
Would Huffington Post Readers Think This Is a Real Bitcoin Alternative?
Regardless of the project’s technological merits — which seem few, since there’s no information anywhere — it’s deceptive to present it as a Bitcoin upgrade or protocol challenger. We’ll assume the Huffington Post has thousands of readers who are not Bitcoin-savvy, and who may well believe this is a legitimate alternative.
The article then segues to promote another obscure altcoin project called “Hero”, also based on Bitshares — which is “programmed” to increase 5 percent in value per year against the USD. That increase, according to another Steemit post about it, seems to come mainly from bringing in new investors. The project appears to be run by a marketing network.
While “Smartcoins” on the Bitshares platform can technically have a value pegged to another asset, any claim that a crypto token will grow against that asset is a red flag. That’s especially true if the value comes mainly from growing the investor pool.
Why Give This Sort of Thing Attention?
Bitsonline readers may ask why we’re giving attention to an article pumping dubious-looking crypto investments. But we feel it’s necessary to call out the mainstream media when it gets Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wrong. If a project with little history or documentation is using Bitcoin’s name/logo to suggest it’s equal to other options in the scaling debate, that’s definitely wrong.
On point to note: the article was published on Huffington Post‘s Contributor platform, and as such its content is posted by external writers without editorial curation. However it still carries the same “HuffPost” branding as the news pages, with the same fonts, format and domain name. Apart from a small-print note in the sidelines, there’s little to distinguish Contributor articles from actual news.
This is obviously designed to confer popular name legitimacy on the content, as well as drive traffic. HuffPost may have dropped sharply in Alexa rankings over the past year, but it’s still at 250 in the world.
Other mainstream news outlets have opened their platforms to outside “contributors” and bloggers in recent years as well — with varying degrees of quality control. Long-term, this will probably serve to cheapen those brands and reduce the trust that is their own main currency.
What do you think of the Huffington Post publishing this sort of thing? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Huffington Post, Flickr (user Tim Sheerman-Chase)