More than 1,000 people have so far signed up to the pro-Trump cryptocurrency magacoin, including conservative media personalities and Republican figures, the Guardian can reveal.
The news comes after poor security configuration in a website associated with magacoin exposed the email addresses, passwords, cryptocurrency wallet addresses and IP addresses of users who have bought in to what its promoters describe as the “digital currency for the MAGA community”.
The data also reveals that the lion’s share of the cryptocurrency so far produced has been allocated to the self-described creator of magacoin, a pro-Trump consultant who owns an LLC associated with the cryptocurrency, and a Super Pac associated with the same consultant.
The information, provided to the Guardian by a self-described hacktivist, unveils the reality around the cryptocurrency whose creators say it is made “by America First Conservatives out of frustration with ‘Losing the Election’ and a desire to fight back by supporting MAGA candidates”.
The vast majority of those sign-ups have only 100 magacoins, the amount offered free in initial publicity to early sign-ups who can claim their share of “75 million MAGACOINS”. The website, echoing widespread rightwing falsehoods about the 2020 election result, says it chose that number “to represent the 75 million voters who were disenfranchised on November 3rd, 2020”.
Other users, however, have greater holdings, and at least some of them may have taken advantage of the cryptocurrency’s Ambassador Program, in which promoters are offering 1,000 free magacoins to approved radio hosts, media personalities, bloggers and grassroots groups who sign up to help promote the currency to their audience.
One account with 1,500 magacoins is associated with the email address of the rightwing broadcaster John Rush, whose Rush To Reason program airs on Denver’s KXL conservative talk station.
Rush recently played host on his program to Marc Zelinka, whose Littleton, Colorado-based used car company, Carmart Inc, applied in April for a trademark for magacoin. Zelinka also administers the magacoin Facebook page, and is credited in conservative social media and on Rush’s show as the creator of magacoin.
Another email address is associated with the Youth Federalist Initiative, a Colorado Republican party-associated effort at youth engagement. The email suggests that the cryptocurrency is in the possession of Evan Underwood, a Colorado Republican activist, podcaster and chair of the Colorado Federation of College Republicans.
Magacoin has been connected in reporting by the Daily Dot with a North Carolina-based Trumpist political operative, Reilly O’Neal, who is the principal of a North Carolina LLC, Magacoin Inc, which was registered last April.
In a telephone conversation, Zelinka, the self-described creator of the cryptocurrency, said that “I don’t control it any more”, and that he had passed the cryptocurrency project entirely to O’Neal.
The Guardian has discovered more extensive connections between O’Neal and the cryptocurrency.
Last month, a Super Pac called Magacoin Victory Fund was registered with the Federal Election Commission. The Super Pac’s main mailing address is a post office box in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is also associated with several other O’Neal-controlled companies and political entities.
According to North Carolina state records, other companies headquartered at the PO box and solely controlled by O’Neal include Rightside Lists LLC and Mustard Seed Media LLC – part owner of Big League Politics.
On magacoin’s front page and in promotional emails it announces that “10 Million MAGACOINS have been donated to the MAGACOIN Victory Fund, a SuperPAC created to support MAGA candidates across the country who will fight for individual rights, religious liberty, protecting the unborn, the 2nd amendment, freedom of speech and the entire America First Agenda”.
The records reflect this gift, with 10 million magacoins associated with an email hosted at the domain of O’Neal’s political consultancy, Tidewater Strategies. Another Tidewater email address is associated with holdings of just over 2m magacoins.
Another 2m magacoins are associated with Zelinka’s phone number and an old email address of Zelinka’s which alludes to his used car dealing.
Previously, O’Neal worked on several North Carolina and national political campaigns, including the campaign of the pro-Trump former judge and accused paedophile Roy Moore.
His political consultancy, Tidewater Strategies, received large sums from mostly Trumpist Republican candidates in the last election cycle, many of whom failed to win office.
O’Neal also reportedly has a stake in the far-right conspiracy-minded website Big League Politics (BLP) through another of his companies, Mustard Seed Media.
That publication’s editor, Patrick Howley, was discredited on the witness stand in the trial of leftwing activists about whom Howley and others fomented conspiracy theories, in order to shift blame from James Fields after he murdered Heather Heyer after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
BLP recently ran a major story on magacoin, promising that the cryptocurrency would “create an ecosystem where pro-Trump individuals can support pro-Trump businesses and candidates without using a financial instrument that benefits the globalists”.
A non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace has introduced policies to ban insider trading, after an executive at the company was discovered to be buying artworks shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page.
OpenSea, one of the leading sites for trading the digital assets, will now prevent team members buying or selling from featured collections and from using confidential information to trade NFTs. Neither practice was previously banned.
“Yesterday we learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly,” said Devin Finzer, the co-founder and chief executive of the site.
“This is incredibly disappointing. We want to be clear that this behaviour does not represent our values as a team. We are taking this very seriously and are conducting an immediate and thorough third-party review of this incident so that we have a full understanding of the facts and additional steps we need to take.”
NFTs are digital assets whose ownership is recorded and traced using a bitcoin-style blockchain. The NFT market boomed earlier this year as celebrities including Grimes, Andy Murray and Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold collectibles and artworks using the format. But the underlying technology has questionable utility, with some dismissing the field as a purely speculative bubble.
The insider trading came to light thanks to the public nature of the Ethereum blockchain, on which most NFT trades occur. Crypto traders noticed that an anonymous user was regularly buying items from the public marketplace shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page, a prestigious slot that often brings significant interest from would-be buyers. The anonymous user would then sell the assets on, making vast sums in a matter of hours.
One trade, for instance, saw an artwork called Spectrum of a Ramenification Theory bought for about £600. It was then advertised on the front page and sold on for $4,000 a few hours later.
One Twitter user, ZuwuTV, linked the transactions to the public wallet of Nate Chastain, OpenSea’s head of product, demonstrating, using public records, that the profits from the trades were sent back to a wallet owned by Chastain.
While some, including ZuwuTV, described the process as “insider trading”, the loosely regulated market for NFTs has few restrictions on what participants can do. Some critics argue that even that terminology demonstrates that the sector is more about speculation than creativity.
“The fact that people are responding to this as insider trading shows that this is securities trading (or just gambling), not something designed to support artists,” said Anil Dash, the chief executive of the software company Glitch. “There are no similar public statements when artists get ripped off on the platform.
“If Etsy employees bought featured products from creators on their platform (or Patreon or Kickstarter workers backed new creators etc) that’d be great! Nobody would balk. Because they’d be supporting their goal,” Dash added.
Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.
The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of 8-bit microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, said to be the UK’s first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms.
And before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983.
“He was a rather amazing person,” his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. “Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”
Sir Clive is survived by Belinda, his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. ®
‘AI tech can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.’
The UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence technology until safeguards are put in place to prevent potential human rights violations.
Bachelet made the appeal on Wednesday (15 September) to accompany a report released by the UN’s Human Rights Office, which analysed how AI systems affect people’s right to privacy. The violation of their privacy rights had knock-on impacts on other rights such as rights to health, education and freedom of movement, the report found.
“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.
“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet added.
The report was critical of justice systems which had made wrongful arrests because of flawed facial recognition tools. It appealed to countries to ban any AI tools which did not meet international human rights standards. A 2019 study from the UK found that 81pc of suspects flagged by the facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police force were innocent.
Bachelet also highlighted the report’s concerns on the future use of data once it has been collected and stored, calling it “one of the most urgent human rights questions we face.”
The UN’s report echoes previous appeals made by European data protection regulators.
The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for a ban on facial recognition in public places in June. They urged EU lawmakers to consider banning the use of such technology in public spaces, after the European Commission released its proposed regulations on the matter.
The EU’s proposed regulations did not recommend an outright ban. The commission instead emphasised the importance of creating “trustworthy AI.”