A Bitcoin Twitter War Is Raging And No Account Is Safe

“Paging @Bitcoin. These tweets don’t help anyone.”

At first glance, the tweet, from investor and entrepreneur Nick Tomaino, might not be distinguishable in the all-out flame war that crypto Twitter – and all crypto social media – has become.

But while the situation has long been simmering, Tomaino’s tweet comes at what might be a new boiling point, following what was arguably the popular handle’s most controversial message in history.

Issued Wednesday, the tweet found @bitcoin sending a message to its more than 800,000 followers that, as Tomaino’s tweet shows, even impartial observers would admit was incendiary, attacking the group that maintains the cryptocurrency’s most widely used software and promoting an alternative cryptocurrency that split off last year.

But for some, the tweet was merely a confirmation of what was already clear – the account has passed over to new ownership that appears to have the intent of pushing a controversial view.

Indeed, for several months, the current @bitcoin administrator has arguably been promoting bitcoin cash instead of the original cryptocurrency, posting content that, at the very least, seems subversive to today’s mainstream view of technical development.

And this has marked a sharp change from years past.

Launched in 2011, @bitcoin has long been tweeting basic cryptocurrency tips and news, and the anonymous account has had several administrators over the years.

CoinDesk itself even leased the handle from 2013 to 2016, but amidst leadership changes, any agreements with any individual that may have been in place have long since gone missing. (Emails to CoinDesk’s former ownership and executives have gone unreturned.)

Still, the recent tweets aren’t just happening in isolation, coming at a time when Twitter has seen a dramatic uptick in cryptocurrency scams across the platform broadly, from fraudulent verified accounts to a general increase in copycat accounts.

Escalating the situation, dozens of crypto accounts were suddenly suspended or “shadowbanned” this week, meaning their posts have in some cases disappeared from searches and followers’ feeds.

RoBhat Labs co-founder Ash Bhat, who makes social media tools to identify bots and propaganda, told CoinDesk that he believes the social media giant is failing to protect its user experience from manipulative campaigns and bots.

Bhat said:

“You essentially have voices and opinions being amplified that don’t represent the human user base. From Twitter’s bottomline perspective, this is horrendous.”

Message received

Adding interest to the story is that, far from ignoring the problem, Twitter’s leadership has been outspoken about the role it’s now playing in cryptocurrency discourse.

In a blog post in November, Twitter touted its place in the conversation, highlighting the notable individuals that have tweeted about bitcoin, while pointing to charts and data that indicated the size of the conversation was among its fastest-growing.

“We’re seeing Bitcoin ($BTC) conversation volume alone exceeding that of the FANG stocks (Facebook $FB, Apple $AAPL, Netflix $NFLX, Google $GOOG) on a daily basis,” the company wrote.

Against this backdrop, Twitter appears to be taking steps to defend its position amidst the recent controversies.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted a series of tweets last week expressing concerns about the platform’s ability to offer a beneficial service. On Thursday, he appeared on videosuggesting one way to curtail digital coin scams would be to verify all user accounts, or at least open the option to all accounts.

Creating a norm where people need to verify facts about themselves would almost be reminiscent of Facebook’s “real name” policy, which is controversial and widely criticized.

Still, Twitter’s formal statement about cryptocurrency scams was less clear about what might be ahead.

“We’re aware of this form of manipulation and are proactively implementing a number of signals to prevent these types of accounts from engaging with others in a deceptive manner,” the company told CoinDesk in a press statement…

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