Over the last few years, we’ve seen NFTs embraced by all sorts of people and organizations. From sports bodies looking to connect with fans to consumer brands for limited-edition items to people trying to save the Amazon rainforest. But while all these are legitimate uses of NFTs, it seems terrorist groups are also getting in on the action.
Yes, terrorist groups. According to a Wall Street Journal piece, an NFT has been made of messages from the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS). The NFT in question was made and listed on several marketplaces before eventually being reported and taken down.
NFTs in Terrorism
While the identity of the person behind this has not been made public yet, they are confirmed to be some sort of terrorist sympathiser. When it was initially posted, it was under the name ‘IS-NEWS #01’ and bore the ISIS symbol but several marketplaces, including OpenSea and Rarible, have delisted it.
But this is far from the end. As anyone with blockchain knowledge will tell you, such an NFT can still be sold and circulated even without the support of a marketplace. An interested buyer only needs to contact the owner and transfer crypto to them for it. More than this, NFTs are virtually permanent and can live forever on the blockchain, which is one of their biggest appeals and why they have been heavily accepted.
But this is not a case of an artwork attaining immortality through technology; it is a terrorist message that even state departments are struggling to get rid of. As former federal intelligence analyst Mario Cosby said in the Wall Street Journal piece, “It’s as censorship-proof as you can get. There’s not really anything anyone can do to actually take this NFT down.”
Another problem with this is that it opens a new can of worms. Theoretically, many of us know that anything can be turned into an NFT. But with this one achieving such notoriety, other supporters of radicalised and terrorist groups might begin to create their own digital assets in mass. Worse, actual terrorist organizations like ISIS might begin creating NFTs.
Sadly, this is just another example of the duality of blockchain-based assets and how they can be used for both good and bad.
NFT Marketplaces and the Dilemma of Delisting
Moving forward, many marketplaces will have some housekeeping on their hands. Platforms like Gamestop have already found themselves having to remove unsavoury NFTs from their platform, including one that referred to 9/11 in a distasteful way.
But this goes beyond just tone-deaf or stolen NFTs. Radical groups and their supporters could very well take advantage of the NFT boom and begin to immortalize their messages on blockchains and spread them to their supporters. If this happens, marketplaces in the industry will have to push back immensely and not let any of them be traded on their platforms.
While, as Cosby pointed out, they cannot be wiped off the internet, they can be kept on the fringes as much as possible.