Meta and Twitter’s NFT Landgrab Could Backfire
“Despite the positivity around NFT use cases, there’s a lot of distrust in the community—perhaps due to the anonymity of key artists and influencers, and almost certainly due to the scammers that circle like vultures and frequent rug pulls,” says PJ Cooper, founder of Pandimensional Trading Co., which is launching its own NFT collection later this year. Despite those reservations, Cooper is largely supportive of Twitter’s entry into the NFT space, and says he will display an NFT as his profile picture when functionality rolls out to the UK.
Cooper does, however, have worries about the fact that people can still right-click and save NFT profile pictures and mint their own version of them as NFTs.
A company spokesperson for NFT marketplace OpenSea, Allie Mack, confirmed that NFT profile pictures that appear on Twitter are verified through the company’s site. In fact, Twitter uses API, metadata, and collection information from OpenSea to authenticate an NFT displayed on a user’s profile and turns it into a “soft hexagon” on the site. Around the same time as Twitter launched NFTs, OpenSea crashed. At the time, security researcher Jane Manchun Wong tweeted that OpenSea’s platform had taken out Twitter’s NFT feature. OpenSea says that the outage had “absolutely zero impact on the public Twitter integration” and that the issue flagged by Jane happened in a closed beta. Since the Twitter integration launch, Mack says there has been zero interruption to the Twitter service.
Others are not convinced that relying on a third party site is the right decision. “OpenSea is pretty unreliable,” says Patrick McCorry, senior system engineer at blockchain startup Infura. This may be one thing Big Tech wants to fix before embracing NFTs full bore, he says.
The OpenSea platform itself has not been free of controversy. Artists have pointed out that the site is rife with rip-off NFT versions of their real-life art, or versions of their sculptures and paintings that could easily be purchased by unwitting social media users. The problem got so big that DeviantArt, an art hosting website from which works were repeatedly lifted, developed its own tool to scan the blockchain for works that also appear on its site, and inform the creators. The platform does have procedures for those whose art has been stolen to appeal for work to be taken down, but the problem persists. A recent investigation found profiles selling NFTs of trademarked logos from some of the world’s biggest brands, including Microsoft, Disney, Amazon, and Adidas, without permission.
Theft is a perennial problem for the NFT world, and one that seems unlikely to be easily fixed, but McCorry thinks that’s a non-issue for Meta and Twitter. “What matters really is custody and the ability to sell it on a secondary market,” he says. For now, it is clear that neither company would own or have custody of an NFT. “Custody is a liability for them,” he said.
For those deep in the NFT space, the adoption of official standards by Twitter in particular is welcomed. Plenty of Twitter users have NFT art as their profile picture, but find it difficult to prove ownership, particularly when faced by trolls who like nothing more than to right-click and steal their NFTs to show them the fallibility of their investments. “Right now, anyone can just put up a CryptoPunk picture and pretend to have one,” says McCorry. Twitter’s plans to prove ownership officially are “a nice way to demonstrate digital property rights.”