UPDATED! Cryptoland and the Streisand Effect: the Craziness Continues

The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American singer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew greater attention to it in 2003.

—Wikipedia article. Streisand effect

Since my original blogpost about one of the bat-shit craziest NFT projects which I have seen to date (and trust me, in the current environment, that’s saying a LOT!), there have been so many new developments in the past 24 hours, that I decided it was time to start a new blogpost, rather than keep updating the original one!

First, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the cartoon portion of the original promotional video for Cryptoland (the complete video was taken down from YouTube, but you can find it via PeerTube, where it has racked up an impressive 12,000 views in just 2 days). Honestly, even if you aren’t up to speed with all the crypto lingo, this is one of the most cringeworthy things I have ever witnessed:

Among other things I mentioned in my first blogpost, the creator of the seagull used in this cartoon has publicly stated that the creators of this cartoon did NOT have her permission to use this asset to promote this NFT project. The team behind Cryptoland then promptly blocked her on Twitter, as they have many other people who have commented on and criticized this project:

Molly White first alerted me to the existence of this video via this epic, hilariously snarky Twitter thread, which you really should settle down with a cup of coffee and read through, to bring you up-to-speed as to what’s been going on over the past four days.

So, what’s been going on lately? Glad you asked 😉

Yesterday, the people behind Cryptoland send the following threatening message to Molly, which she was only too happy to share via Twitter:

Needless to say, this announcement provoked an outpouring of hilariously sarcastic comments (you can read through them here).

One commenter stated, “How about your attempt to scare someone for exposing your bullshit? Impersonating a lawyer is a felony. Keep digging that hole, guys.”, which prompted the so-called “Cryptoland Legal Team” to respond with this gem:

A lawyer using the phrase “Perfectly legit tool”? And “Cease and decease”?!?? Well, you can imagine how this went over. Eventually, heavy hitters like Keith Olberman (with almost a million Twitter followers) retweeted both the original threat and the Cryptoland team’s response far and wide. If Cryptoland had expected their efforts to extinguish the firestorm, their bully tactics backfired rather spectacularly!

Witness the Streisand effect at work: dozens and dozens of people, who had never heard of Cryptoland before, started looking for and watching the original video that prompted this back-and-forth on Twitter! A video which the Cryptoland team is now apparently trying really hard to erase from the internet, without success.

And there is now a small cottage industry of YouTube reaction videos to the original Cryptoland promotional video. I shared three as updates to my first blogpost, but here’s a fourth one I watched last night (I roared with laughter at points!):

But wait, there’s more! In a now-deleted tweet (still viewable via the Wayback Machine), they responded to a question about the age of consent on Cryptoland (a perfectly reasonable question, given that a cartoon was created to promote the project) as follows…

…which (of course!) just poured gasoline to the fire. The YouTuber in the video I linked above talked about this tweet, referring to the Cryptoland island as “Epstein Island”, and even non-crypto folks started to weigh in:

Cryptoland’s responses to this storm of controversy? Well, they’ve been busy trying to spin their self-inflicted wounds into some sort of organized, diabolical conspiracy to discredit this truly hare-brained scheme, as Molly has only been too happy to report on:

So, at this point, me and literally thousands of other people are like:

Stay tuned!

P.S. It turns out that Cryptoland is not the only NFT project involving a real-world island! VICE reported in an article about both projects:

As The Next Web pointed out in its dive into the island and Wikipedia editor Molly White in a Twitter thread sharing her research into the project, there are a few problems that stick out even beyond Cryptoland’s wild marketing video. Take the fact that the island mentioned in its “Why Paper”—an island in Fiji named Nananu-i-cake— is still for sale on at least two websites, despite the project’s website claiming that it has secured an “island purchase agreement.”…Cryptoland did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

Cryptoland isn’t alone. Satoshi Island is another crypto utopia supposedly in the works, featuring a 32 million square foot island (approx 1.1 square miles) in Vanuatu—an archipelago of islands between Australia and Fiji. It’s slightly larger than Cryptoland, but has substantially less information available on it.

Its website states that the island is owned by Satoshi Island Limited, but there’s no information on who runs the company or how beyond a Team section listing some individuals involved. It also claims to have “a green light from the Vanuatu Ministry Of Finance and all approvals in place.” Motherboard reached out to various Vanuatu offices to confirm this, but has not heard back.

Hear that? There’s TWO projects out there! This just keeps gets better and better, people!

Buckle up; it’s gonna be a wild ride to follow these projects!

UPDATE Jan. 10th, 2022: VICE has just published a follow-up story on the Cryptoland debacle, covering many of the same points I covered here, plus a few new developments I hadn’t yet heard about:

Even Carlos Matos, the face of the infamous Bitconnect scam that Cryptoland features a memorial and casino in honor of, threatened legal action against Cryptoland for using his likeness in a tweet. “This is the first time I see this and whoever is using my name, brand,  or image here is using it without my approval and authorization,” Matos tweeted on January 5. “I will definitely look more into this and bring this dudes into justice. They may want to get in contact with me before they hear from me.”

In case you have no idea who Carlos Matos is, you need to watch this truly iconic video of him shilling BitConnect, a cryptocurrency which turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme (Wikipedia article) :

You know your project is in serious trouble, when someone who is literally the face for blockchain scams threatens legal action for using your name and likeness!

The VICE article concludes as follows:

In response to all of this and other criticism, the project’s Discord has been in the midst of an ongoing purge. Criticism is labeled as spreading “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) or “bullshit,” and a new update posted to the Discord warns that members should not “engage in negative conversations with any of the trolls who enter the discord.” Instead, if you “suspect that someone is spreading fud or negativity, please report it to any member of the team and we will handle it from there.” Links to the Wayback Machine, where Cryptoland’s age of consent tweet is archived, are blocked in the Discord, Motherboard confirmed.

All in all, things are going poorly at Cryptoland it seems. It hopes to be the future beating heart of the cryptoeconomy, but is currently beset by a myriad of questions about how it’ll work, where the funding will come from, and whether its handling of the wave of criticism makes it a viable and responsible project.

I leave you with yet another wonderfully snarky YouTube video by KiraTV, who makes it his business to rip crazy NFT projects to shreds, and is absolutely scathing in his latest update on the Cryptoland project:

UPDATE Jan. 12th, 2022: Callum Upton has dropped a new commentary video about Cryptoland, and the tea is piping hot, so enjoy:

Somnium Space Announces a Branded Virtual Reality Headset

Somnium Space’s announced VR headset will work both standalone and tethered (image source)

Somnium Space has been busy! In a Medium post last October, as part of several announcements of investments in various XR technologies such as TESLASUIT and XTAL, they wrote:

We are extremely excited to share with all of you what we have been working on already for months — a Somnium Space VR headset. At Somnium we believe that users must have the right of choice. That VR hardware market should not consist of few big players producing headsets with closed eco systems thus creating silos and with full control over user experience and more importantly data. Moreover, as a decentralized and open Metaverse company we cannot allow Somnium Space to be dependent on hardware gatekeepers to be able to communicate and engage with our users. That is why, earlier this year we have taken a strategic decision to start working on our own VR headset.

Currently we are deep in the R&D phase, finalizing specifications and component details. Testing compatibility and preparing supply chain. In December 2021, during Somnium Connect physical and VR event we will release final specifications and more details about production and delivery timelines, prices and much more. As of now we can share few high-level teasers about headset:

– Standalone mode powered by Snapdragon XR2 chip

– Native PC VR mode

– Open, community driven software eco-system

– Modular design

We can not wait to share more information in December and work on this together with you — community and amazing partner companies for seamless integrations of hardware and software experiences.

On Dec. 22nd, 2021, Bobby Carleton of VRScout reported:

The headset, which [Somnium Space CEO Artur] Sychov refers to as the “Somnium VR Headset”, is packed with some killer specs and designed specifically for a VR audience that doesn’t want to be tied to a specific app store or be boxed into any sort of platform restrictions. 

“We wanted to create a headset that you truly own. We didn’t want to lock you down into our ecosystem,” said Sychov. “We didn’t not want to allow you to do things with your own items. If you buy a VR headset from Somnium Space, you truly own it.”

According to Somnium, the headset features a modular design that allows you to easily customize your experience. You can also remove the sides and bottom of the headset to add custom 3D printed accessories (up to 55 lbs!), making it a truly customizable VR headset. “We really believe in modularity,” said Sychov, adding, “with access to the platform, you’ll be able to extend the life of the headset.” 

Another cool feature is that Somnium’s VR headset is completely programmable, which means you can dive into the system to change the actions of the buttons and sensors in order to meet your custom needs. 

Somnium Space, which is best known for its open social VR platform that integrates blockchain and cryptocurrency for true ownership of digital goods and virtual land, partnered with VRgineers (makers of the XTAL 3 headset) to develop their own hardware. Though not as beefy as VRgineers’ XTAL 3 headset, which is designed for enterprise use, Somnium Space looks to raise the bar for non-enterprise VR headset expectations.

Somnium Space hopes to deliver their branded virtual reality headset to consumers by the fourth quarter of 2022. These are very ambitious plans, and UploadVR‘s Jamie Felton notes:

These are ambitious plans for sure, and it’s worth remembering the difficulties many other small to medium-sized companies have faced bringing VR hardware to market. DecaGear recently drastically revised its plans for a $450 SteamVR headset to $700, citing the realities of competing with Meta. Plus there are many vital elements of Somnium’s plans that still sound up in the air, like a reference to “researching Micro OLED displays” which would surely drastically change the shape and form of the product.

As far as I am aware, Somnium Space is the first social VR platform (besides Meta) to offer a branded VR headset. I wish Artur Sychov and his team every success in their gutsy endeavour!