Let me ask you a hypothetical question. How likely are you to share your opinions online if you had the chance to do it under a concealed identity? What would you say and do differently if there was no way to punish or mock your behavior? Very tempting possibility, but don’t get too excited. Anonymity online is a double-edged sword, it can protect and potentially make you the most dangerous person. There’s an extremely fine line to walk on when speaking of anonymity, or “Doxxing” as the NFT community calls it.
Doxxing, or identity reveal, on the internet, and especially in the web3 space, is a very controversial topic with two very polarizing takes. Some argue that being fully doxxed attracts cyberbullying and scam attacks. Others demand doxxing because it makes people accountable for their actions.
How is NFT doxxing being perceived in 2023? Has it become a must for NFT projects to thrive, or is it still an option? What is the verdict on personal space and safety in the NFT space? Is NFT doxxing inevitable or still a choice? Such an interesting debate, let’s get to it.
What Does NFT Doxxing mean?
How did the term “NFT Doxxing” come into use?
Let’s start with “Doxxing”
Dox: is an acronym used for documents
Dropping Dox: Back in the 1990s hacker subculture, dropping dox meant revealing someone’s private information to the public without permission.
With time, the term doxxing referred to the public disclosure of private information.
So what’s with ‘NFT’ in Doxxing?
When NFT project creators are doxxed, it means that all the team members are using their real names. Usually, they keep all the real social media accounts and photos up for the public to delve into. It’s safe to note that the phrase “doxxing” is no longer necessarily associated with negative intent like its original meaning.
So basically, NFT Doxxing is a term that says “these NFT project creators are all known”.
What Are the Levels of Doxxing in Web3?
Now that we got ourselves familiar with the NFT doxxing term, there are three different layers to using the word “doxxing”, each with a meaning of its own:
- Undoxxed→ Anonymity
- Semi-doxxed → Pseudo-anonymity
- Fully Doxxed → Identifiable
Being fully anonymous means that this person can’t be traced or identified by any name or wallet at all. This identity is often adopted by shady rug-pullers in the NFT space. However, an example of a rather successful NFT collection that adopted full anonymity for a while is Goblintown. They then semi-doxxed semi-doxxed themselves as Truth Labs, and that was met with mixed reactions.
— goblintown.wtf (@goblintown) June 14, 2022
This entitles being partially anonymous and is the natural case of most blockchain users. Pseudonymity is when people can identify you but not who you really are. So you can see it as an alter persona that you project in a digital realm. Basically the kind of human psychology that PFP NFTs and metaverse experiences are built around.
In real life, everyone's identity and their “relationships” are generally public information, but not their private financial transactions. In the crypto/NFT space the opposite applies: blockchain transactions are public, but the IRL identity and “relationships” are often hidden.
— NFT Ethics (@NFTethics) March 18, 2022
Blockchain users’ identities are represented by their wallet’s public key, an alphanumeric string of letters and numbers. However, these people are not hard to fully doxx, because technically, by tracing financial transactions associated with their wallets and piecing together any personal information they’ve chosen to release publicly, you can know the real identity of the person behind the wallet. Something similar happened with the full doxxing of Yuga Labs’ founders Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow.
Being fully known in the NFT community is regarded highly. It means you have got nothing to hide behind, no insecurities whatsoever. Checks VV Editions’ founder Jack Butcher is currently leading the space with his transparent fully-doxxed moves. Another successful and ambitious project aiming for blue chip status is Valhalla, which has adopted the fully-doxxed tactic. On January 24, 2023, Genuine Undead took the NFT community by storm when they dropped a full doxxing of the main leaders of the team. Their community found that very respectful and rewarding, despite already establishing a trust bond.
— Genuine Undead (@GenuineUndead) January 24, 2023
Is Anonymity Necessarily Malicious in the NFT Space?
That’s a debate of its own. But briefly speaking, not all anonymous NFT builders are necessarily rug-pullers. For example, the artist/founder behind Genuine Undead remains anonymous to this day. Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder(s) of Bitcoin, is so far from ever being doxxed. Sometimes full anonymity of the person behind a great technology or action defeats the purpose. Some mystery is harmless, but not in all cases.
Unfortunately though, remaining anonymous in the NFT community makes people anxious. It also drives NFT investigators to dig up their identities. Yuga Labs were semi-doxxed, which is very accepted in the community, but they were forced into doxxing. Allegedly, they wished to stay pseudonymous and have been “doxxed” against their will by BuzzFeed.
Another notable figure in the NFT space facing the same fate as BAYC creators is Murat Pak, the creator of the most expensive NFT ever sold “The Merge”. Currently, NFT Ethics are putting Pak under scrutiny for his anonymous existence.
Murat Pak has remained somewhat of an enigma, as he is already around since at least 2009 without confirming his identity. We found a deleted Medium article mentioning his venture Buggum and a PDF file from 2012 where he is pictured as one of its founders. All public information. pic.twitter.com/ENnZCbB5SS
— NFT Ethics (@NFTethics) February 5, 2023
Advantages and Disadvantages of Doxxing
To better understand the phenomena of Doxxing in the NFT space, let’s go over the pros and cons of doxxing for an NFT creator and an NFT consumer.
Doxxing for NFT Creators
It is very rewarding in NFT communities for project founders to come clear on their real identities. It will have a great impact on the team’s reputation, rapport, and overall respect.
When creators are doxxed, they can easily establish a reputation associated with tangible identities. For example, which NFT project were you more likely to invest in:
Gary Vee’s VeeFriends or ArtGobblers?
Look at both projects now, which had a long-term sustainable success? Being doxxed sets you up to start building a reputation—whether it’s a bad or good one is up to you.
Building rapport is critical to fostering long-lasting and genuine communities. And It’s not so easy to connect with someone you don’t actually know. It’s true that most of us build the most genuine relationships on Twitter we don’t tangibly know as humans because we connect on a deeper intellectual level. However, in the long run, you want to take that relationship to the next level of trust and know the human behind the brain.
Being Doxxed in the NFT community is regarded with high levels of respect. Because it requires a lot of gut and courage to put yourself out there and say ” Hey I got nothing to hide”. You can buy thousands of followers and farm endless engagements and appear to have a good following, but respect must be earned. This is something NFT God managed to build over the years, despite being pseudonymous. The community’s respect for him got him through the unfortunate mind-shattering hack he faced.
The advantages of NFT doxxing can be appreciated by going over the risks that come along with it. Unfortunately, Doxxing in the NFT community comes with a strong wave of disadvantages for the creators of a project or influencer.
1-Loss of Privacy:
This is the case with every celebrity. Paparazzi rush to intervene in their lives and capture their intimate moments without consent. Similarly, in the web3 space, every fully doxxed builder/creator is putting up his/her privacy for grabs. Especially when their wallet addresses are known.
2-Lack of Security:
with the loss of privacy comes a serious lack of security. When someone knows exactly who you are and can figure out where you live, that’s a life threat. Imagine what would all the scammers that NFT Ethics exposed do if they found out who the creators of NFT ethics are. Not only is it a life threat but also a threat to assets, for we witnessed this year one of the biggest crypto whales Kevin Rose being robbed out of his most prized NFTs.
3- Scrutiny & Biases:
This is the worst nightmare, to live under the pressure of being blamed for a mistake. Even worse, some will face racial and sexual biases when their real identities are revealed. Some might even feel shocked because the imaginative person they had in mind doesn’t align with the real identity of the person.
Once you are doxxed in the NFT community, there are many expectations. You can’t just launch a collection and hope it will do well. There must be a roadmap and long-term rewards. For example, would Yuga Labs’ NFT collections keep dominating the space if they didn’t create Otherside, ApeCoin, and Dookey Dash? The pressure becomes a mental health one because a person can rise and fall in the crypto/NFT space overnight.
Doxxing for NFT Consumers: All Positive
Despite the urging need to have good and bad consequences, I couldn’t think of one disadvantage for an NFT user knowing the identity of the creator behind an NFT collection or NFT influencer/builder. Knowing who you are dealing with is only assuring and comes with no negative outcomes.
What just so happens to be the most important factor for NFT creators is also the greatest benefit for consumers. The more transparent the team behind an NFT project is, the easier it is to trust them as a consumer. Moreover, consumers can easily research the creators behind a brand when they are doxxed. This means consumers are more willing to buy whatever a brand might be offering.
The more open a brand is regarding its intentions, the better off consumers are. Not only does transparency enable consumers to make better buying decisions, but it also allows them to determine if what they’re buying is exactly what they’re looking for.
3-Ease of Mind:
Knowledge is power. At the end of the day, most consumers are after ease of mind. They want to feel good about what they’re buying and confident in their decision. Knowing exactly what you’re buying, who you’re buying it from, and that what you’re promised is sure to be true is one of the most comforting feelings as a buyer. Anonymity and risk only make the consumer anxious and less likely to spend money.
One of the most important aspects of Doxxed NFT creators for consumers is holding someone accountable. We’ve witnessed last year the wrath of the crypto space when SBF scammed everyone out of their pockets and caused a market crash. Imagine all that anger not being attributed to a real person that can be punished. I know it’s debatable if SBF got the punishment he deserves, but you got my point.
To Dox or Not To Dox?
That is the question. The answer, however, is not as definitive as it may seem. After reading everything, it’s quite obvious that NFT consumers favor Doxxing but this puts a lot of risk on NFT project creators and influencers. So can we say that pseudo-anonymity is the middle ground? But if so, why did Genuine Undead doxx their team leaders? On another spectrum, the sappy Seals community is the most alive despite its founder being undoxxed. So what is the verdict on NFT Doxxing?
I can’t say for sure, but it seems like the trend is to be fully doxxed with nothing to hide. People are investing their life’s earnings of Ethereum on NFTs, and at the time of writing one ETH is worth $1,633. That’s not easy money to waste. Maybe if the stakes weren’t so high and blockchain technology not that expensive to maintain, major NFT creators wouldn’t be forced into doxxing. But who knows? It’s just my speculation.