The Shiba Inu memecoin launched a metaverse real estate project last week and someone promptly drew a swastika in it by bidding on plots of land.
This isn’t the first time a cryptoproject has had to deal with a swastika. On Wednesday, Binance—the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world—excitedly brought back its Twitter emojis, unveiling what looked exactly like a swastika, albeit the version of the ancient symbol that is familiar in Buddhism and Hinduism.
Shiba Inu’s virtual real estate venture, the latest in a long line of “metaverse” land projects jumping into a speculative craze, allows anyone who locked LEASH tokens—one of the coins in the project's ecosystem—or Shiboshi NFTs to buy virtual land. Multiple tiers of land were made available at first, ranging in value from 0.2 ETH to 1 ETH.
Bidding for the land started on April 12 and lasted for 72 hours, ending on April 15th; hours before bidding ended, members of the Shiba Inu Discord channel noticed that a wallet address was buying up land to form a swastika. Some of the initial reactions were interesting: "It brings down the value of our lands," one bidder said in the Discord. "99.99% of people will only see it as a hate symbol."
In a community channel dedicated to discussion of land, users quickly came together to buy virtual plots around the swastika to prevent its expansion and to eventually ensure it was longer viewable on the virtual land map. Four days later, the project team issued a statement seemingly referencing the incident and saying that it will ban the wallet address.
"We will not tolerate the use of hate speech, displays of intolerance or bigotry (through words, actions, symbolism etc) at the discretion of the community moderation team,” the statement reads. "SHIB: The Metaverse will place the wallet identifying the violation on a blacklist, meaning it will never be able to participate in any and all areas of this platform."
In the Shiba Inu Discord, one mod clarified that the land would not be confiscated and put up for sale.”Not confiscated but blacklisted from future involvement” in the metaverse, the mod said. For the most part, the community was fine with blacklisting the user’s wallet address as well as the community buying up land to render change the swastika into a window. Still, a few pedantic arguments broke out in the community.
Some argued about whether swastikas were really hate symbols or just turned into such by Nazis who repurposed the symbol. "In the western culture yes but this is a slippery slope.....it's still used in lots of other cultures we use it in the oto....for ritual magic....but I doubt this man was using it for the same,” one user chimed in.
Others bemoaned the action for different reasons. "I mean, you basically can't have an opinion in the Metaverse or it could be misconstrued and your wallet address gets banned for life...LMAO,” one user complained. Another user after an exchange with one developer agreed that they didn’t want anyone drawing swastikas, but that dictating what was and wasn’t hate speech was “a step towards centralization” and "a lot of power to hold in a 'decentralized' system.
To their credit, the crypto project’s team had little tolerance for such quibbling and made it clear numerous times that swastikas and other hate speech were not allowed in the community. “Tbh idc. It's not allowed. It's not taking away from defi,” one moderator said in response to the argument that this was a step towards centralization. “It's taking away someone's ability to spread hateful images. Hate speech isn't protected speech.”
Still, the fact that this needed to be reiterated and litigated at length—or that some members of the community insisted it clashed with their prioritization of decentralization or property rights is concerning (and suggests it will only be a matter of time until it happens again).