The creator of Ethereum, a popular cryptocurrency, was rumored on 4Chan to have died in a car crash two days ago. Despite skepticism, the rumor gained enough steam to be picked up in at least one news outlet (article now deleted), and crash the value of Ethereum from Sunday to Monday (with the lingering aftermath still very much being felt):
Chart from Coindesk:
The incident, which wiped out $4 billion in market value, shows the potential ease with which cryptocurrencies can be manipulated by completely anonymous web users in an attempt to buy up crypto on the cheap. In the Crypto Wild West, any sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable online rumorist can create a panic and spend the next day buying up the discounted coin:
When a rumor can become powerful enough to crash a market, you have to wonder about the intentions of the person, or people, who started it. And as it happens, when looking for the BBC News and Coconuts Yangon articles from the images above, I couldn’t find them.
It wouldn’t be terribly difficult for a skilled practictioner to Photoshop fakes, and use them strategically in conversations on online message boards, as they edit the Wikipedia entry and take care of other details. Then, the click-hungry 24/7 news-social media complex spreads the information like wildfire. As long as there was just enough truth to the rumor — in this case, by attaching it to a car crash that actually occurred– you would already have made off with your money before the market could figure out what happened.
An article in Fortune agrees that the rumor was most likely the work of a market manipulator with dollar signs in their eyeballs.
Then again, since all kinds of global markets can be swayed by even a single announcement from Janet Yellen or a Tweet from Donald Trump, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that cryptocurrency markets are attractive targets for meddling trolls and money-hungry mischief makers.