BattleCatsArena apparently rug pulls several weeks after launch

An illustration of a rainbow-colored cat with a brown afro and small glassesBattle Cat #286 (attribution)
The NFT project BattleCatsArena appears to have rug pulled on March 5, about three weeks after its launch. The project had been announced late last year, with a post from its creator danvee.eth explaining, "After seeing lots of projects with zero utility and surviving 2 rug pulls I decided that it’s time to build a real product that will deliver value to its holders from day one." The project had an ambitious roadmap, featuring NFTs, cat shelter donations, and of course a game with several play modes. Minting began on February 16, though the launch was somewhat disappointing—only around 400 of the 500 available BattleCats were minted in the three weeks following launch, and trading volume was low. On March 6, the project apparently deleted its Twitter account, and danvee.eth claimed the Discord had been hacked. All told, the project earned almost 21 ETH ($55,000). danvee.eth wrote on Twitter that he would try to refund people who wished to be refunded (so long as they were nice to him); as of that day no refunds had been sent from addresses associated with the project.

NeosVR virtual reality project jettisons its crypto component after a team blow-up

NeosVR, a virtual reality project originally released in 2018, introduced "Neos Credits" (NCR) in 2018 with the idea that it could enable in-game transactions. The crypto component was primarily managed by Karel Hulec, one of the project's team members. After cryptocurrencies and metaverse projects experienced a boom in 2021, crypto enthusiasts flooded into the project and drove up the value of the token. Some project members described the influx of people from the crypto community as having a strongly negative effect on the community, with one person writing they brought "all of its true slur-lovin' pepe-wearing glory to Neos". After some discontent within the team about the crypto side of operations, members of the team traded public statements with allegations about other members. On March 4, after Hulec released an updated whitepaper fraudulently (but perhaps mistakenly) "signed" by the rest of the team, the project creator and developer announced a proposal to allow Hulec to operate the cryptocurrency "on top of our work, but as a 3rd party solution, under a company solely under his ownership and direction", and for the primary team to cease involvement with the crypto component of the project.

Tai Lopez releases an exorbitantly-priced NFT project where people can buy access to him

List of NFTs: "1 on 1 Shadow Tai in Person at His Office
1 on 1 Michelin Star Restaurant with Tai
1 on 1 Whatsapp Access to Tai's Personal Number
1 on 1 Private Jet Trip with Tai
1 on 1 Watch a Movie with Tai
1 on 1 $10,000 HORSE Basketball game with Tai
1 on 1 NBA Game Courtside with Tai
1 on 1 VIP Table at a Top Nightclub with Tai"Some of the NFTs (attribution)
The entrepreneur and motivational speaker Tai Lopez, of "here in my garage, just bought this new Lamborghini" fame, announced a new NFT project. The NFTs feature staggering list prices and promise "value" that all largely center around access to Lopez. Some of the highest-tier "Black Card" NFTs include, "1 on 1 Shadow Tai in Person at His Office" (2–3 hours, travel & accommodation not included), "1 on 1 Whatsapp Access to Tai's Personal Number", "1 on 1 Watch a Movie With Tai" (2-hour movie, Lopez picks), and "1 on 1 $10,000 HORSE Basketball game with Tai", and were presented in a Dutch auction beginning at 80 ETH ($210,000).

Some people in the crypto community responded with disdain at the project, describing it as a "cash grab". One NFT influencer tweeted "Hey @tailopez legit question: Why Would I pay 30-40k to watch a movie with you? or 80-90k for your WhatsApp? Who u think u are? U def have a shady reputation and doing this only adds more fuel to the fire. I respect anyone wanting to add value to NFTs but this is not the way." Others were surprised at the project's smart contract, which not only automatically transfers any money out of the project and into the team members' wallets, but requires the NFT buyer to pay the gas fee for that transaction in addition to normal gas fees for minting.

Nemus Earth plans to buy and protect land in the rainforest... with Ethereum NFTs and a Brazil nut plantation

An illustration of an eagle sitting on a branch, on a trading card styled background. The card reads "Harpy Eagle, Parcel #128, -66.87661, -7.83341"Nemus Earth NFT (attribution)
A project called Nemus Earth has emerged, offering to sell you an Ethereum NFT to become a "Guardian" of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The project has lofty plans to create a "protective belt" in the Brazilian Amazon to try to protect it from deforestation. The project's whitepaper goes on to explain that "economic activity is required" on the land that they will purchase, and outlines a plan to employ the Indigenous people in the area to farm Brazil nuts on an abandoned plantation the project intends to "revitalize". The project describes a "co-op" for the local people that will "unlock generational wealth for these communities", though there appear to be no plans for these people to actually join the community of "Guardians" or have any say in the project's governance. Other economic activity planned by the project apparently involves "sustainable forestry", "empower[ing] local police authorities", something involving drones, and of course generating carbon offsets for other projects.

The whitepaper also addresses that the project will be built on the Ethereum blockchain. There is a section about "pros & cons of Ethereum", which has one section: gas fees. Apparently the project based on environmental conservation has decided to simply gloss over the enormous energy consumption, emissions, and electronic waste stemming from the Ethereum blockchain.

The project opened its second round of minting on March 3, and is offering its NFTs for mint prices between 0.06 ETH and 19.44 ETH ($150 to $50,000).

OpenSea blocks Iranian users

Iranian users were surprised to find that their OpenSea accounts had been deactivated with no warning. One Iranian user wrote, "NOT A gm AT ALL. Woke up to my opensea trading account being deactivated/deleted without notice or any explanation, hearing lots of similar reports from other Iranian artists & collectors. What the hell is going on? Is OS straight up purging its users based on their country now?" At least one user who reported issues said that they are Iranian, but haven't lived there in years, and are based in Italy.

OpenSea said in a statement that "OpenSea blocks users and territories on the U.S. sanctions list from using our services", though it's unclear why this change seems to only have come into effect recently.

MetaMask and Infura block Venezuelan users, at least briefly

Users based in Venezuela suddenly found themselves unable to use the enormously popular crypto wallet, MetaMask, on March 3. MetaMask relies on Infura, a popular API platform for Ethereum, which had apparently blocked access for Venezuelan users. Both MetaMask and Infura are owned by the parent company ConsenSys. An FAQ page on MetaMask's website states that "MetaMask and Infura are unavailable in certain jurisdictions due to compliance with laws", though it does not specify which jurisdictions, or which laws.

Some Venezuelan users were furious with MetaMask, feeling that their choice to prevent them from using the platform was incompatible with the decentralized and deregulated nature of much of crypto. One Twitter user wrote, "MetaMask Do not tell me that you became Centralized, I have this problem and many people in Venezuela have the same".

ConsenSys later appeared to say that the block of Venezuelan users was in error, writing that "In changing some configurations as a result of the new sanctions directives from the United States and other jurisdictions mistakenly configured the settings more broadly than they needed to be".

People joke about being "rugged" by Ukraine as the country cancels its planned airdrop

Ukraine canceled its promised cryptocurrency token airdrop on the day it was expected to happen. Government officials had previously announced that anyone who donated by March 3 would receive an airdropped cryptocurrency token as a reward; this was a promise that spurred a large total number of donations, though relatively few of much size. Protocol reported that 95% of people donated amounts of 0.01 or 0.001 ETH (equivalent to $28 or $2.80), apparently primarily in hopes of getting the promised reward.

Some publications have speculated that the airdrop was canceled because someone tried to spoof the tokens, but it doesn't appear that Ukraine has given a reason for the change in plans. After the cancellation, many commenters on Twitter, all of whom were hopefully joking, wrote that they had been "rugged" by Ukraine—using the common slang for crypto scams in which people are convinced to buy in on a project that then takes the money and doesn't follow through on its promised plans. In the tweet announcing the cancellation, Ukrainian Vice President Mykhailo Fedorov wrote, "After careful consideration we decided to cancel airdrop. Every day there are more and more people willing to help Ukraine to fight back the agression. Instead, we will announce NFTs to support Ukrainian Armed Forces soon. We DO NOT HAVE any plans to issue any fungible tokens". What a world we live in.

Someone tries to spoof promised Ukraine airdrop

After embracing cryptocurrency donations to help fund its resistance to Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government decided to try to solicit even more donations by announcing they would airdrop a token to anyone who donated. There was some excitement on March 3 as it appeared that Ukraine was seeding liquidity pools on Uniswap with $WORLD tokens. However, blockchain analysis tool Etherscan shortly afterwards marked the token as "misleading... and may be spam or phishing". It's not yet clear what the person apparently spoofing the tokens was trying to do.

Conspiracy theorists Brian Rose and David Icke get in on the defi and NFT grift

Brian Rose and David Icke pose next to one another with their arms crossedBrian Rose and David Icke (attribution)
Conspiracy theorists Brian Rose and David Icke are together known for their April 7, 2020 interview where Icke attempted to draw unsubstantiated links between the rollout of 5G cellular technology and the COVID-19 pandemic. Independently, Icke is also known for many other conspiracy theories, including the antisemitic theory that an interdimensional race of reptilian creatures form the Illuminati, and control humans through fear.

Rose, for his part, runs a show called Brian Rose's DeFi Real, where he has published episodes like "Create your Career in Crypto: How to Become a DeFi Influencer, Educator & Fund Manager", and "The Next 100x Coins: How to Pick the Big Crypto Winners". As for the Rose and Icke duo, not only have they teamed up to broadcast COVID-19 conspiracy theories, they've also turned that project into NFTs, with a 100-item collection consisting of several-minute-long portions of their COVID-19 conspiracy TV series. Although all of the NFTs were given away, only a single NFT has experienced any trading so far.

Personally, I'm shocked to see the conspiracy theorists and crypto communities overlapping in this way.

Bug in Treasure NFT marketplace results in listings being sold for free

A pixel art monkey with a large brain, who appears to be made out of goldSmol Brains #5203 (attribution)
The Treasure NFT marketplace on Arbitrum (a layer 2 network built atop Ethereum) apparently experienced a bug that allowed someone to "buy" NFTs in transactions where they sent 0 currency. The attacker particularly seemed to target the "Smol Brains" NFT project, likely because of its relatively high value—the project has a floor price of almost $10,000. Some of the NFTs that were transferred at no cost to the attacker had been listed for several times that floor price, including one gold-colored Smol Brain (pictured) that had been put of for sale for the equivalent of $560,000.

At least 17 Smol Brains NFTs were stolen, which were listed for a combined total of around $1.4 million. PeckShield reported that more than 100 NFTs from multiple collections had been stolen. They reported that the exploit was due to a bug in their contract that allowed an attacker to set a quantity of 0 in a transaction, which when multiplied by the item price resulted in a total price of 0.

TreasureDAO co-founder John Patten wrote in a tweet while the hack was ongoing that "We will cover the costs of the exploit — I will personally give up all of my Smols to repair this."

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