Over the past few days Cryptoland, the moonshot project to turn a private Fijan island into a crypto-utopia, has taken to posting through a PR crisis following widespread mockery of its animated marketing video and a wave of criticism about the project.
On Saturday, Molly White, a software engineer whose viral deep dive into the island's seemingly half-baked plans touched off a wave of scrutiny, posted that she received a legal threat from Cryptoland.
"It has come to our attention that you have been making statements about Cryptoland that are both false and misleading. These statements constitute libel since they defame both Cryptoland and its founders," the email posted to Twitter by White reads. "We demand you immediately cease and desist making these false and libellous statements, delete them from any platform and issue a public apology on all platforms where the libellous statements have been placed."
Since then, the company seems to have taken to posting through the backlash to the legal letter and other aspects of the project.
"We are not impersonating anyone," Cryptoland said in a tweet after being accused of “impersonating a lawyer” in the letter it sent to White. "Sending a letter of cease and decease[sic] is a perfectly legit tool to ask a person to stop spreading misinformation."
Cryptoland has also filed a copyright takedown against White on Youtube for reposting their full marketing presentation, White revealed, which seems indistinguishable from satire at points. And when pressed about why it responded to a tweet asking about the island’s age of consent with “Mental maturity should be enough ;)” the project sent out another convoluted statement.
“We at Cryptoland condemn any kind of racist, deviant or abusive behavior. Our twitter is run by several people and not all of them are native english speakers,” the official account said in a statement. “The person who answered that question clearly didn't understand the ill intention behind it and misinterpreted its meaning, naively thinking they were asking about the age allowed to come to Cryptoland, just like to any other place, like a restaurant, a resort or an amusement park.”
Cryptoland is also being accused both of stealing assets to use for its animated short film that went viral because it was indistinguishable from satire. One artist claimed Cryptoland stole a 3D asset she created—a dancing animated seagull in the video—for unauthorized commercial use. She was blocked shortly after pointing this out. Another tweet claims a shot from the video is actually just a photo ripped from the internet and sloppily shopped over.
The artist, Kamila Bianchi, did not immediately respond to Motherboard's request for comment.
The project’s team has been adamant that no assets were stolen. “No assets were stolen,” Cryptoland said in a tweet responding to accusations. “We either bought them, created them or where [sic] brought by the different animators that participated.”
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 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.