This Week in the Metaverse: NFT insider trading arrest and Kanye West eyes web3
Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic, blockchain-based space is either the next big thing for marketing – and for almost everything else – or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:
A former executive at NFT marketplace OpenSea was arrested this week for alleged insider trading / Adobe Stock
Former OpenSea exec arrested for alleged insider trading of NFTs
For the first time, an individual is being charged by the US Justice Department for insider trading of digital commodities.
Earlier this week, Nate Chastain, former head of product at OpenSea – the world’s largest NFT marketplace – was arrested for allegedly purchasing NFTs shortly before the assets were displayed on OpenSea’s homepage, causing their value to soar. According to court documents filed with the United States District Court Southern District of New York, Chastain “exploited his advanced knowledge of what NFTs would be featured on OpenSea’s homepage for his personal financial gain.”
In an effort to cover his tracks, the documents further allege: “Chastain conducted these purchases and sales using anonymous digital currency wallets and anonymous accounts on OpenSea.”
Patent applications signal Kanye West’s potential entrance into web3
“Do not ask me to do a fucking NFT,” rapper Kanye West declared on Instagram earlier this year. “My focus is on building real products in the real world.” This would have been a crystal clear statement about his position on the digital assets, had he not also added three words under his signature at the bottom of the note: “Ask me later.”
It appears that “later” may have arrived. Ye has filed 17 new trademark applications around his Yeezus name, according to multiple reports. The filings cover Yeezus-branded amusement parks, toys and, yes, NFTs. ‘Yeezus,’ the title of West’s 2013 album, has also become one of the rapper’s aliases. If he ultimately expands his brand into web3, he’d be joining numerous other rappers who already have a presence in the space, including the omnipresent Snoop Dogg.
Researcher claims her avatar was ‘raped’ in Horizon Worlds
A new report published by advocacy non-profit SumOfUs alleges that one of the organization’s researchers was sexually assaulted in Horizon Worlds, Meta’s virtual reality (VR) platform. The report, titled ‘Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content,’ claims that roughly an hour after the researcher entered Horizon Worlds, she “was led into a private room at a party where she was raped by a user who kept telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window could see – all while another user in the room watched and passed around a vodka bottle. This sexual act was non-consensual, and the researcher described the experience as ‘disorienting and confusing.’” The report also included a brief clip of the episode.
This is the latest in a string of recent charges that have been leveled at Meta and other VR companies for failing to adequately police their virtual environments against sexual violence.
In its report, SumOfUs says: “Despite venturing into uncharted territory, the company has invested $10bn in the metaverse, and is deploying a ruthless acquisition strategy to stamp out competition and stifle innovation.
“Without urgent action, this will only get worse. Until regulators hold Meta to account for the harms found on its platforms, weaken its grip over technology industries and rein in its ruthless data-harvesting practices, the metaverse is very likely to spiral into a darker, more toxic environment.”
Meta did not respond for comment at time of this filing.
Gucci expands its metaverse presence with Gucci Town
Gucci has expanded its presence in web3 with the launch of Gucci Town, hosted on Roblox. The brand has had some previous “ephemeral projects” in the metaverse, including the so-called Gucci Garden, which launched last year.
Intended to be the “virtual counterpart” to Vault, which Gucci describes as its “experimental concept store,” Gucci Town will give fans the opportunity to view and bedeck their avatars in new Gucci products. There will also be a virtual cafe, where visitors “can take a break and, more importantly, come together with friends to meet and interact with others.”
The new launch from Gucci represents the latest effort from a luxury fashion brand to cash in on the metaverse, with all of the cutting-edge branding and customer engagement opportunities that this emergent virtual space affords. Synonymous with status and longevity, many of these brands – including Gucci, which celebrated its centennial last year – have also launched their own NFT campaigns.
Binance raises venture capital fund for web3 companies
In the midst of an ongoing and historic crash in the crypto market, some web3 true believers are expressing their unshaken belief in the power of blockchain by committing huge sums of money to the struggling market. Earlier this week, Binance Labs – the venture capital branch of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange platform – unveiled a new $500m investment fund, with funding from DST Global and Breyer Capital. The new fund is intended to support startups that are building web3.
The news from Binance arrives hot on the heels of a similar fund launched by the famous firm Andreessen Horowitz aimed at supporting cryptocurrencies and crypto companies during the market’s slump.