What happens if you steal someone's Good Tweet™?

Way back in the early days of the Social Web, the writer Cory Doctorow invented Whuffie. Think of it as a way to formalise "upvotes" and "likes" on social media.

Whuffie, a form of digital social reputation, replaces money and is a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for a person. This rating system determines who gets the few scarce items, like the best housing, a table in a crowded restaurant, or a good place in a queue for a theme park attraction.

On the surface, it seems like a nice idea. But the last decade of social media has shown how easily it can be gamed and abused. It is trivial to pay for positive sentiment on social media. The crowd upvotes entertaining content more than thoughtful content. Sites like Klout and Kred faded into obscurity because tracking social sentiment across dozens of sites is impractical and inaccurate. The days of getting a book deal and TV series based on your Good Tweets™ are long gone.

And yet...

One of the least useful members of Twitter is "The Numbers Grifter". The sort of parasitic user who steals a popular Tweet and passes it off as their own. Or who takes an image, mislabels it, and passes it off as something sensational.

Hardly high crimes and misdemeanours. At worse, they're depriving someone else of their 15 minutes of Internet Fame.


Techbros have found a way to monetize content theft like never before. THANKS BLOCKCHAIN! NFTs are a stupid idea - oh, wow, you own a digital receipt in a ledger - and they attract a lot of scammers. People who copy popular images, claim them as their own, and then start selling them:

And on and on it goes.

What's the solution to this? The hucksters who run various NFT auction houses have no real answers.

The monetary transactions are mostly anonymous - so good luck suing anyone for ripping off your artwork.

The magic of the Blockchain is that you can't delete content from it - so good luck convincing everyone to irrevocably delete the distributed database.

Some NFT galaxybrains suggest that artists mint every single thing they create - in order to prevent others from stealing it. Coincidentally, this makes NFT sellers a lot of money.

NFT is not about supporting content creators. If you want to support your favourite artist - send them money. PayPal, bank transfer, gift vouchers. Anything! Commission them, buy a print, promote them to your friends.

The major use-case of NFT is monetising copyright infringement. It is explicitly designed to be permissionless, untraceable, and profitable for the scammers.

Please don't buy into the lie that it democratises art collection. It's just a rip off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *