How Sloppy Journalism Hurts Bitcoin
Cointelegraph’s Joseph Young recently penned an article entitled “Opera Browser May Consider Integrating Bitcoin, Implements Built-in Adblock” implying that there is some news to report relating Bitcoin and Opera.
There is no news to report about Opera and Bitcoin. The article is a part of a growing trend from the less reputable segments of Bitcoin Journalism. Their practice are potentially harming bitcoin’s reputation among companies and observers.
Young’s article has several issues. The native Ad-blocking features were released in May, but being slow on the news cycle is far from the article’s most egregious sin. The entire piece is a fantasy concocted in Young’s head and broadcast to the world by CoinTelegraph’s platform.
The evidence presented in the article was flimsy to begin with, but was later outright denied by the same source. Young directly asked Opera on Twitter if they would consider Bitcoin integration similar to what Brave promised earlier this year. They simply replied by asking what platform he would like to see the feature on, mobile or desktop.
Based on that, Young wrote opened his article with “The team behind Opera, […] may consider integrating Bitcoin after introducing a built-in Adblock feature in its newest release.” reading that, a reasonable person could assume that Opera is strongly considering the idea, maybe even implementing some sort of test or pilot program.
But they aren’t, or at least there hasn’t been any public acknowledgment of it. A day later, Opera stressed that bitcoin is not a part of their current plans.
@iamjosephyoung Hey Joseph, it’s not on the roadmap for now. But ask us again in the future & we’ll keep an eye out for your articles 😛 /R
— Opera (@opera) August 29, 2016
Cointelegraph did not update the article to reflect the reply.
We contacted Opera to ask for more details about their feelings on Bitcoin and they reiterated that “Bitcoin is not something we have in the road map for now.” While Young admits in the article that Opera did not announce a bitcoin project, he didn’t do so until near the end of the article. Many readers never get that far and even if they do, the article still gives the impression that there is something significant going on with Opera and Bitcoin, when there isn’t.
The Opera Story is Not an Isolated Event
Unfortunately, Young is not the only “journalist” in the bitcoin space to have such a loose interpretation of facts. Everyone makes mistakes in journalism. But there is a difference between a mistake made out of ignorance and concocting an article out of thin air.
In recent days we have seen bombastic, misleading (and poorly written) headlines like “Stock Up on Bitcoin! US Economy Can Enter Another Recession Soon” and “Google and Apple like Ripple’s Interledger Protocol for interoperability – and because it’s not Visa” (which led to even worse headlines). The first example above was just wild speculation and fear-mongering and the second only spoke to Ripple executives, not Apple or Google ones. Oh, Ripple says Apple and Google likes Ripple because its not VISA? Well, that’s apparently good enough for the ibtimes, no need to confirm with another source. Why would a Ripple executive exaggerate the interest in their technology? I’m sure that would never happen.
“World’s First Bitcoin-Based Oil Market Launched – Will It Be A Success?” is another misleading article. That speculation was for a site that launched less than six months ago. It also has a protected Whois domain (hiding your company’s ownership is rarely a good sign) virtually no users and a shoddy web design. It does not rank in the top ten million sites on the web.
This recent crop of articles isn’t a new phenomenon. I previously had to correct the mistakes of my former colleagues when one them reported that a country was accepting bitcoin as their national currency. The problem? The country does not exist.
Bad Journalism Hurts People and Bitcoin
It is a larger issue than simply wasting people’s time with click-bait and fake articles. It creates a false sense of momentum that, when it fails to materialize, can hurt cryptocurrencies. How many people are waiting for countries to start using bitcoin as their national currency? How many people think an Apple or Google currency or wallet is right around the corner? More important: how many people have stopped waiting for those things? How many fake articles and vaporware projects does it take before people start giving up on the crypto-revolution entirely?
Surely, it must be annoying for companies to have to issue denials about statements they never made. Is that the impression we want to give them? It’s not only positive articles. There was the time CCN wrote “Gabe Newell: Bitcoin on Steam is Unlikely and Here’s Why”. That article is based on Steam CEO Gabe Newell’s comment in an AMA that one issue would be stability, but he never said it was “unlikely”. Steam now accepts bitcoin. Was it a complete 180 by Steam? Or did they only say there might be some issues and then implemented it when they could?
“Bitcoin has been banned” articles are always good for clicks. How many people believe Bitcoin is banned in Thailand, China or another country because a clickable headline was chosen over an accurate one?
Bad journalism isn’t just bad because it wastes people’s time, it is bad because it leads them down the wrong road. That might be mentally, or it could lead them down a path to financial ruin. Most mainstream media journalists either don’t care about Bitcoin or don’t understand it (with some notable exceptions). The two favorable Paycoin articles in the Wall Street Journal demonstrates that the community cannot depend on “mainstream” journalists.
Cryptocurrencies are extremely complex, and it takes someone who understands it and the industry to properly report on it. Should we be considered “real” journalists? I’m not sure, but we need to become that fast. Real money and the crypto-revolution itself, is at stake.
Writers need to properly source their articles. Editors need to reign in their overzealous writers. And readers need to punish, rather than upvote, cheer-leading articles that tell pretty lies.
Otherwise, Bitcoin journalism will continue as one big circle jerk. Like all circle jerks, it will get messy.