shady business

The BBC almost ran a documentary hyping up a crypto scammer

Oops, sorry for glorifying a rug pull.

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Huber & Starke/Corbis/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, the BBC was set to air a program about a “self-made crypto millionaire” on We Are England’s “Bossing It” series which highlighted entrepreneurs around the country. But hours before the 7:30 air time, the 30-minute feature was yanked, as was an accompanying article on the BBC homepage that introduces the program’s subject: Hanad Hassan, a 20-year-old from Birmingham who claimed he turned an investment of $50 (£37) into $8m (£5.9m) within just nine months — a return of nearly 16,000,000 percent.

It’s an eyebrow-raising statistic — and a number that should prompt some thorough research. But somehow, the BBC missed some crucial and decidedly dodgy details. When Jim Watterson, media correspondent for The Guardian, raised concerns about the program, it was replaced with a different segment. The BBC also deleted its flattering coverage of the subject, which is archived here.

What’s the deal with this crypto scammer? — Hassan, the subject of the program, had created a cryptocurrency called OrfanoX. The piece said that he "wants to use his wealth to help people" and that he used his profits to donate $270,000 to good causes. But what the article failed to mention was that the coin was abruptly discontinued in October, leading to confusion and outcry among investors who were left with nothing. Hassan claims it wasn’t a rug pull, but if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

BBC’s written piece, titled “Birmingham’s self-made crypto-millionaire giving back,” displayed Hassan’s expensive apartment and describes the way Hassan “decided he was going to become a millionaire while he was still a teenager.” The Guardian writes that the corresponding documentary planned to broadcast clips of Hassan distributing money to food banks.

OrfanoX, which stated that its goal was to “make the world a better place,” and to “bridge the gap between charity and the blockchain” claimed to give a 3% cut from every transaction to charity. But the coin’s philanthropic ethos didn’t seem to stop the founder from running away with everyone’s money.

There’s no shortage of crypto scams, but what’s notable about this one is that it almost got a puff piece on TV. Even established media can fall prey to crypto bros with the right connections and a lot of confidence. But as ongoing fraud, environmental concerns, compromised decentralization, and flashy grifters plague the crypto space, it’s not the time for uncritical reporting.