Hardcore Bitcoiners Turn on Ross Ulbricht for Selling an NFT From Prison

Ulbricht is serving life in prison for his role in running the notorious Silk Road drug market, but that didn't stop Bitcoiners from coming for him.

Dec 1 2021, 5:06pm

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the online drug marketplace Silk Road that helped put Bitcoin on the map in its earliest days, is minting an NFT. Ulbricht is serving a life sentence in federal prison and plans to use the proceeds from the NFT to start a charity to help the children of incarcerated people. Some Bitcoin fans aren’t happy about it.

“UNFOLLOWED!” Twitter user “JimJones1913,” whose profile is full of the familiar iconography of a hardcore Bitcoiner, replied to Ulbricht’s announcement on Twitter. He also posted an animated GIF of a man dancing in hell above the words “Enjoy your Stay!!!”

“Blocked,” tweeted someone with the username “LaserHodl.”

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

While some crypto-fans see NFTs as a natural outgrowth of cryptocurrency, others, many of them so-called Bitcoin maximalists, hate them with the passion of an ardent right-clicker. To them, NFTs (and anything except Bitcoin, really) are an obvious scam that delegitimize the entire crypto-market. The more people who buy algorithmically-generated ape cartoons and lose millions in rug-pull scams, the more volatile and foolish the cryptomarket looks. The beef runs deep enough that they have no problem telling a guy who’s in prison for life that they blocked him on social media. 

The outpouring of disdain for Ulbricht is a bit ironic. For many in the Bitcoin community, Ulbricht is a libertarian hero. When Bitcoin launched in 2009, it was a curiosity. After the online drug marketplace Silk Road launched in 2011, it became a phenomenon—with founder Ulbricht largely to thank for that. Now he’s serving a life sentence for activity tied to running the Silk Road.

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“Bitcoin was the only means of exchange on the Silk Road platform, and devotees of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies recognize Ross’s vision as being an original catalyst for blockchain adoption,” explained the NFT’s website.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

“It is finally starting to sink in that I might be here in federal prison for a while,” Ulbricht said in a post on Medium about the NFT sale. “I just started my 9th year of life without parole. Decades of incarceration stretch out in front of me. As I face that future—my eventual old age and death in this cage—I find myself looking for meaning and purpose. Why am I here? What good can I do with the time I have left and from where I am?”

According to Ulbricht, he started drawing again in prison and someone suggested he mint the drawings as NFTs. The works portray things like Ulbricht meditating and imagining a life of freedom from inside prison, and a self-portrait of himself and his cellmate. 

He wants to use the money earned from auctioning them off to establish a charity that helps the children of incarcerated parents. “There is a lot we can do with the proceeds of this auction, but one idea I am committed to is to help kids travel to visit their moms and dads in prison,” he said. “My own future may look bleak, but I can still do a little something to heal the damage I see all around me. Prison shatters families. It shatters communities. And the kids are the ones who suffer.”

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Many of the replies to Ulbricht’s tweet about the NFT sale are bleak.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

“Oof,” said one Twitter user with a Frank Sinatra avatar and “#Bitcoin” in their bio. “If you want donations, just say so. NFTs and their marketing is so misleading. Plus does a Felon even have the capability to offer copyrights?”

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

The pile-on didn’t sit well with every observer. Indeed, for every weirdo in the comments, Ulbricht received a dozen more in support.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

“If Bitcoin is your religion, then Ross Ulbricht should be your fucking Jesus,” crypto Twitter personality Udi Wertheimer said on Twitter. “This man is dying in prison quite literally FOR YOUR SINS. I will bid his NFTs as far as I can and I hope you all join me.”

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

During the Silk Road’s two-year run, Bitcoin was the only currency it used. Before investing got big, crypto went mainstream, and hedge funds got involved, buying drugs online proved that Bitcoin had actual value and a use in the real world. Ulbricht’s Silk Road, despite its illegal nature and everything that came of it, was the first big marketplace that proved cryptocurrency was more than just a fad.

Now, Ulbricht sits in jail, eating the sins of the early days of crypto and drawing sketches he hopes to sell online for a children’s charity.

The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection NFT will be auctioned on December 2 at Art Basel in Miami. It’s being handled by FreeRoss, a group of Ulbricht’s family and friends fighting for his release from prison.

Tagged:

Silk Road, crypto

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