Do you have a Twitter account that you use exclusively for NFTs, crypto, and building a Web3 community?
If you answered, “Heck yeah, I do! love my frens, wen moon, yay!” well, that’s just delightful. You should feel good about building a solid connection with the NFT community and enjoying the opportunities and marvelous things that come with it.
But here’s another question for you: how many of these people do you know? I mean, like really know? I’m talking about the people behind the WonderPals and Robotos avatars, who are typing out the tweets behind those blue-chip PFPs.
More than likely, you know absolutely nothing about the majority of your NFT community.
Don’t feel bad if this is you because anonymity in the NFT space is largely by design. Security, privacy, and identity are all central pillars within crypto, the metaverse, and the NFT space, and while there are criminal sides to anonymity, there are significant benefits.
What we mean by anonymity
For those who’ve been scrolling NFT Twitter over the last six months, you’ve probably seen a good number of Tweets of people comparing their “Web2” version of themselves next to their “Web3” version.
Their favorite new NFT PFP typically represents the Web3 version of the person, but this Web3 representation can mean way more than just their favorite digital collectible. Instead, an NFT in place of an avatar essentially becomes the person’s Web3 identity.
This NFT-based identity matters because it plays directly into what it means to be anonymous in the NFT space. A big draw about the NFT space and the metaverse, in general, is that there’s no need to label yourself in a specific way.
More specifically, characteristics like gender, age, location are not required for being involved with NFTs, crypto, or anything blockchain-related. Another way of thinking about it is that an NFT can function as an identity because it’s verifiable on the blockchain in place of traditional personal details (name, gender, age, etc.).
Keeping personal details hidden is just part of anonymity in the NFT and crypto space. Web3 and the move towards decentralization have made anonymity a hot button issue with multiple perspectives.
While people continue to debate about the benefits and drawbacks of the anonymous culture of Web3, there is undeniable potential that comes from anonymity.
Security and inclusiveness come with anonymity
Just like in the physical world, there is plenty of hate that exists online. People target others for their race, gender, and orientation, and sometimes the abuse can reach dangerous levels. While anonymity is not a solution for curing hate and intolerance, it does act as a form of security against those who discriminate against others.
While remaining anonymous is obviously a choice, artists and NFT enthusiasts can thrive with the added protection. In some ways, the security that comes with anonymous and decentralized communities is the foundation for building the next generation of the web.
Without the ability to regulate, track, and gain access to someone’s true identity, the chances of being attacked or harassed drop drastically. Of course, it doesn’t just stop at protection from harassment; NFT artists, for example, can create personas and build followings based exclusively on the art and not pre-existing perceptions.
At the time of writing this, one of the biggest crypto hacks in history went down about a week ago. While security around hackers and scams will tighten because of this, it almost certainly won’t be the last time something like this happens.
You can rest assured of this because while the anonymous side of NFTs and the metaverse does produce many positive benefits, it also creates an environment where scamming, theft, and other malicious activities are a constant threat.
This duality of positives and negatives generates intense discussion on the importance of maintaining an inclusive and anonymous community while also questioning the serious issues that come with it.
Even Twitter accounts exist for the purpose of shining light on ethical infractions committed within the Web3 and NFT community. One of the more prominent accounts – aptly named NFT Ethics – is at the forefront of investigating sketchy dealings and exposing the anonymous and semi-anonymous people behind the acts.
In the bio of NFT Ethics Twitter account, they clearly state that they are uncovering these unethical behaviors to address and strengthen the foundations of Web3 and NFTs. Anonymity is central to the ethical foundation of Web3 and NFTs, which is why most of the crypto and NFT community take the issue so seriously.
It brings us to the topic of doxing and why there’s constant and intense debate on the practice, plus what it means for the NFT community.
Doxing the anonymous
For those who are unfamiliar, when a person is doxxed, that means that someone publishes private identity information about that person, and it’s usually done with malicious goals. Of course, in a space where anonymity is highly valued, and ethics are still somewhat of a fuzzy concept, doxing can generate drastic consequences.
If you’re still puzzling over the importance of anonymity and many tend to scrutinize those who dox others, let’s take a look at the example of the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a multibillion-dollar project with star power, global influence, and a solidified status within most of the NFT community. When Buzzfeed revealed Gordon Goner and Gargamel as founders of BAYC, there was an uproar in the Web3 community.
As you can see from the tweet, there are two main camps of thinking about doxing the leaders of a mega-successful team. The journalist who broke the story makes the point that it’s morally corrupt to have control of such vast quantities of wealth and influence while leading a large community under an anonymous profile.
There are other examples of doxed accounts run by people with problematic pasts. Instances of racism, scams, rug pulls, and other forms of bigotry and unsavory actions are not uncommon within the NFT space, and doxing a private account has often uncovered these types of behaviors from individuals were benefiting from the NFT space because of their anonymity.
Put simply, this is a complex topic and one that will only become more contested as the space grows. Each day, a new viral thread circulates through Twitter over the ethics and principles of anonymity in NFTs, and everyone should expect more heated debates from a variety of perspectives.
NFTs and anonymity ten years from now
We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us how anonymity will play out within the NFT space over the upcoming years. The most likely scenario is that we’ll see more scams, more doxing of accounts that reveal unfortunate truths, and other negative consequences of a community that welcomes flawed unknown characters into the space.
On the flip side, we’re sure to see the benefits on display. There will be those willing to go to battle over keeping the anonymous aspect of Web3 intact, and it will be for purely positive reasons.
But as NFTs, crypto, and the metaverse become more highly regulated, the chances are that anonymous artists of significant projects will be less of a possibility. Those who are proponents of an anonymous and accepting new age of the internet will have to push for anonymity that can be practical and ethical.
The final question is simple: where do you stand on anonymity in the NFT space? Is it a hill you would die on? Or are you for disclosing details to curb malicious activities? In any case, it’s up to the community to determine the future of Web3 and NFTs.