Many of us might love NFTs for the cool pixelated art attached to them or the potential of flipping them for a profit but our favourite digital collectables are fast becoming political tools. Take, for example, the different establishments that have been selling them to raise funds for Ukraine amidst the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
We’re at a stage where we are beginning to push the limits of what we can or should do with NFTs and inevitably, politics and world affairs are coming into the mix. Take some residents of Shanghai who have started documenting their experiences in lockdown using NFTs.
A City Under Lock and Key
As per a report from Reuters, some residents of Shanghai have been minting content that documents their experiences in a month-long lockdown in which no one was allowed to leave their homes. These NFTs have included videos, pictures, audio, and so on.
The reason this content is made into NFTs is to make sure that it cannot be censored or removed. In response to this, Chinese censors are trying to crack down on group chats and other online platforms to stop what they call ‘rumours and efforts to stoke discord’.
Still, some citizens are undeterred, posting their content to sites like OpenSea and documenting their experiences. One notable NFT that was made was a six-minute video entitled “The Voice of April” that shared audio recordings of the Shanghai outbreak.
Since it was minted on April 22, 2022, hundreds of other items have also been listed on OpenSea that relate to the video. There have been instances in the past of Chinese activists recording the accounts of government activities on blockchains and now, NFTs seem to be the newest way to do so.
“I have minted the ‘Voice of April’ video into an NFT and have frozen its metadata. This video will exist forever on the IPFS,” said a Chinese Twitter user, alluding to the fact that his content is now immortalized.
Of course, Twitter is not permitted in China but citizens sometimes access it using VPNs. The strict attitude that Chinese authorities have had towards western-created tech like NFTs has been well known.
Last month, accounts on WeChat, the biggest messaging platform in China, were suspended for NFT-related activity. Considering that NFTs are now being used to document government and lockdown activities for the rest of the world, we can only expect attempts at censorship to continue.
As long as there are oppressive governments around the world and a means to document their activities, this sort of content will continue to exist in cyberspace. While our first impressions of NFTs might not be about activism, they have clearly found some use there.
Over time, we will likely continue to see NFTs of content that the government might otherwise try to remove on sites like OpenSea alongside our favourite pixelated monkeys. These just go to show the multifaceted nature of NFTs and the role that they play in our world.