The Associated Press (AP) has come under fire for posting a tweet suggesting that it planned to sell an NFT depicting migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean. Although the tweet was deleted shortly after it was posted, many people are angry that the not-for-profit organization had intended to make money through the misfortune of migrants.
On 24 February, The AP posted a tweet that said, “Tomorrow’s drop at noon EST on the AP Photography NFT Marketplace will feature video by @felipedana of migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean”. This of course was instantly met with a response from angry Twitter, one of which coined it “poverty porn” while another posted “What a massive fail. An astonishing misstep from @AP”.
• Read more: How I sell my photographs as NFTs (opens in new tab)
Having been accused of monetizing despair and making profits from suffering, The Associated Press decided against selling the short video clip as an NFT and took to Discord to explain what had happened. Dwayne
Desaulniers, the AP’s director of blockchain & data took full responsibility for the decision, commenting, “I’m pretty devastated that we seem to have damaged our work to take with our planned use of the rescue video”. He continued, “I’m the team member accountable for that decision”.
Another Discord chat post from the AP’s Director of Global Technical Engagement. (Also in this public Discord: the AP’s Director of Blockchain and Data, an AP product marketing manager, and an AP social media producer/photo editor.) pic.twitter.com/AkRNOUuTzJFebruary 25, 2022
The Associated Press first delved into the world of NFTs when it sold a series of ten artistic representations of some of its most famous images through the peer-to-peer marketplace, OpenSea. However, at the end of January 2022, it launched its own NFT NFT marketplace (opens in new tab) using the environmentally friendly blockchain, Polygon, and has since used it to sell press photos ranging from $300 to $1,499,000. This has been the first time the AP has faced criticism for planning to sell an NFT, but it’s not the first time that the ethics of an NFT sale have been questioned.
In January 2022, photographer Faith West decided to sell unseen photos of Nirvana as NFTs (opens in new tab) through the Rarible marketplace. Furious fans once again took to Twitter to air their distaste and accused the photographer of doing something that would make Kurt Cobain turn in his grave.
The chat on Discord acted as a space for people to ask Associated Press about its planned action to sell the NFT, who would receive the profits and whether the photographer was aware of the sale. A staff member said, “AP is a non-profit. All the proceeds that the AP make go back into funding our journalism. A portion also goes directly to the photographers who receive a % of any primary and future sales… We shared the Tweet before fully telling the story behind the video to give it proper context. This is something we will address in the future”.
While this may have been a tasteless accident by Associated Press it does open up the question: what is appropriate to sell as an NFT and what isn’t? News agencies are responsible for keeping people up to date with things happening in the world, but that doesn't mean they should be able to make money from the suffering people they're reporting on.
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