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Pretending to do good

Pretending to do good

The term ‘fake news’ has entered the global lexicon in recent years, affecting everything from elections to scientific debate.

Unsurprisingly, the crypto community is also rife with misinformation. Sometimes this is deliberately propagated, other times we see a game of telefon rosak in which the original message gets changed ever so slightly each time; within a matter of hours there is a new version of events being promoted as fact.

This is not unusual or specific to crypto, but it is an increasing issue with a community which now numbers well into the millions, all interacting across fast paced and often transient forms of media such as Discord, Telegram and Slack as well as anonymous exchanges such as trollboxes and 4chan.

The counter argument to this is that there is a lot of good information available across the multitude of crypto sources and that mainstream media attention, whilst still often lacking in comprehension, is increasing. This will improve the quality of the reporting around the subject, as will any move into the space from institutional money.

There is another insidious form of fake news entering the crypto space however, with the introduction of ‘proof of caring’. Introduced by ‘Chief Caring Officer’ Richard Ma for Quantstamp, this is nothing more than another form of pretending to do the right thing whilst enforcing something that is done primarily for their benefit.

Proof of caring, for those unfamiliar, rewards those who gain attention for the company by allowing them to be whitelisted for the ICO. 

We haven’t focused on marketing at all, help us get the word out. Show the love by writing a blog post, reaching out to different corners of the internet, reviewing our project, making a quick youtube video or podcast, reviewing the pros and cons of our whitepaper, or by inviting people to join us on telegram and help us build a genuine community.
— Richard Ma, Co-Founder and Chief Caring Officer of Quantstamp

Some would argue this is nothing more than the logical extension of the bounty campaigns many new crypto start ups have run in the past (where bounty participants receive tokens on project launch in return for including a link to the project in their forum signature, translating documents and posting on Twitter). I would disagree as those activities are largely passive and do not discriminate between those writing positive or negative things – simply by how many shares or retweets they get or what forum status they have.

With proof of caring, users are prompted to give Reddit, Bitcointalk and Twitter usernames, linking to positive posts they’ve made about the company.  This system forces people to actively promote the positive aspects and ignore any negative aspects if they want to be whitelisted. It forces people to turn into shills for a company just so they can be rewarded with the high honour of being allowed to give the company their money.

Bloom, a six man team asking for $50m, adopted a similar principle as have Quoine and Experty

Richard [Ma] invented Proof-of-Caring to reward those that truly care with a way to participate in the Quantstamp tokens contribution. Traditionally, highest priority is given to those who pay the highest gas fees the moment the contribution begins, but with Proof-of-Caring, priority is given to those that have demonstrated the most support.

People have been flocking to our Telegram and Twitter, bringing their friends with them and sharing this exciting project with the world. The more people that are a part of the community, the more everyone benefits. These people are our core supporters, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.
— Experty.io

Translation: We are ignoring the multiple other fair ways of running an ICO, such as whitelisting and apportioning an equal percentage to each user, in favour of trying to gain an army of free marketers.

Proponents claim proof of caring helps to produce better quality content about the project, aiding amateur investors who might not have the time to properly research the company. I would disagree. It is a cheap trick that further muddies the waters, making it unclear who is writing objectively and who is a quasi-paid shill for the company. The sole benefit it might inadvertently have is to erode people’s trust in anything they read about a project without doing the research themselves.

The all-seeing Panopticon

The all-seeing Panopticon

The weakest link

The weakest link