Social Media Meets Crypto on This Billion-Dollar Tech Company

Enter the strange world of BitClout

BitClout in action.

Remember a few years ago when an app called Peeple debuted and it was described as “Yelp for people”? That was weird, right? Well, take that basic concept — an app based around someone’s rising and falling popularity — and fold in a whole lot of cryptocurrency and you have a basic sense of BitClout, a new startup that blends Twitter with the ups and downs of a financial market. Also, it’s valued at $1 billion. It gets stranger from there.

A new article by Jen Wieczner at Intelligencer offers an in-depth look at BitClout. It’s a startup which first made headlines for having, as Wieczner phrases it, “ripped off some 15,000 profiles of famous people and influencers from actual Twitter and opened accounts in their names without their permission.” Among those who ended up with profiles on the new service: Wieczner herself.

The idea behind BitClout’s market is tying share prices into the ups and downs of a given person’s social media presence. Going full Milkshake Duck might result in your profile’s share price plummeting, for instance.

As Wieczner points out, there are a number of elements to BitClout that seem worrying. There isn’t a process in place to withdraw Bitcoin from the service, for one thing, even though it’s received $225 million in Bitcoin. (Note the aforementioned billion-dollar valuation.) The company’s founders have also remained anonymous, though it hasn’t stopped them from raising a nine-figure amount of venture capital.

The whole article makes for a head-spinning read. It also leaves the uncanny sense that in a year or two, someone will have made a gripping documentary about all of this — and how it went very wrong.

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