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幣安事件的教訓:想不變成騙子窩,加密貨幣行業需要加強監督

David Z. Morris 2019年12月09日

加密貨幣領域對媒體的不信任有很多原因,但人們在這場紛爭中忽視了一點,記者堅持對事實真相的關注。

幣安網首席執行官趙長鵬。圖片來源:Andrey Rudakov—Bloomberg via Getty Images

撰寫區塊鏈和加密貨幣報道至今已經有五年多時間,我發現該行業最頑固也是最不幸的一件事情是,它對記者有著無端的敵意。11月末,這一幕在一個奇怪的口水戰中再次上演,故事涉及加密貨幣行業兩家最為重要的公司:總部位于馬耳他的加密貨幣交易所巨頭幣安,以及專注于加密貨幣交易的刊物《區塊》。

故事是這樣的,當《區塊》報道,幣安上海辦事處遭到了當局的突擊檢查,隨后關閉。幣安不僅否認他們遭到了“突擊檢查”,同時還稱自己在上海并沒有辦事處。幣安的創始人及首席執行官趙長鵬(業界又將其稱為“CZ”)甚至來了個特朗普式的發飆,聲稱《區塊》是“假新聞”,并威脅要起訴該雜志。

I’ve been writing about blockchain and cryptocurrency for more than half a decade now, and one of the most consistent and unfortunate things about the community is its irrational hostility to journalists. That was on display yet again at the end of November in a bizarre spat between two of the most important companies in crypto: giant Malta-based crypto exchange Binance, and crypto-focused trade publication The Block.

The saga began when The Block reported that a Binance office in Shanghai had been “raided” by Chinese authorities, then shut down. Binance not only denied that they had been “raided,” but said that they had no office in Shanghai. Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao (best known as simply ‘CZ’) even went Full Trump, declaring The Block to be “fake news” and threatening to sue.

作為回應,《區塊》刊登了其所稱的莫須有辦公室的照片,而且還詳細說明了他們在最初報道中所援引的信息來自于親眼所見的證人,包括組建辦事處的管理層。其中一個線人——一名供應商——甚至宣稱趙長鵬曾經親自到訪過這個臆想的辦事處。

事實最終證明,面對《區塊》的報道,幣安拿不出什么有力的反駁證據。不過,該雜志倒是更改了標題的措辭,將“突擊檢查”變成了如今的“到訪”。但幣安最終扔下了這么一個論斷,盡管有這么一個地方存在,而且那里的人也是在為公司工作,但這并不意味著它就是公司的辦事處。

好吧。

一位看似是幣安寫手的評論員則信口開河地說道,這個辦公室并非是辦事處,因為“幣安可能在不少地方都有類似的存在,只是一個個據點罷了。它們采用的是一種中心輻射模式。”

當然,這一點也是幾乎各類規模現代公司的真實寫照。《財富》雜志在紐約、舊金山、倫敦設有辦事處,也在北京設立了辦事處,這一點我們承認。

這種顧左右而言他的措辭顯得尤為空洞,因為據知情人士稱,就在今年秋天,幣安曾經就建立戰略合作伙伴關系與《區塊》進行過探討。(幣安并未回復《財富》雜志的置評請求。)

考慮到來自于政府的壓力,幣安對事實的荒唐歪曲聽起來還略為合理些。幣安的官方總部位于馬耳他,但趙長鵬出生于中國,而且公司似乎正在努力拓展其在中國的版圖。但由于中國缺乏明確的法規,因此此類業務擴張取決于政府的態度,而且突擊/到訪發生數天之前,中國人民銀行下令打擊加密貨幣詐騙和交易所。幣安可能希望通過否認《區塊》的報道,來博取政府的好感。

至于威脅要起訴,很有可能只是做做樣子罷了。專注于加密貨幣行業的律師布雷斯頓·拜尼雖然自己也與《區塊》有過節,但他也警告幣安,訴訟會讓公司付出很大的代價。“在美國打誹謗官司是一項難以完成的任務。很明顯,幣安有著大量的資源,完全可以在其他地方打這場官司,但我想質疑一下這種公開自身信息邏輯的合理性,也就是說,在取證過程中與一群按桶買墨水的人打交道。”

換句話說,這場官司會大大增加幣安的曝光度,而且不僅僅限于法庭取證過程。Castle Island Ventures專注于加密貨幣的投資者尼克·卡特稱:“真正的故事在于,這個昧著良心向散戶兜售無價值代幣的離岸交易所,認為自己可以通過上訴的威脅,逼迫一個自命不凡的媒體刊物三緘其口。在他們試圖博取美國監管方的歡心之際,這種做法對于他們來說沒有任何好處。”

不管有多少表演成分在里面,打官司這種威脅確實能夠吸引社交媒體上加密貨幣粉絲的注意力。更有甚者,趙長鵬隨后還稱加密貨幣初創企業應該“分配一些資金用于抵御FUD(恐懼、不確定性和懷疑)”在加密貨幣界看來,FUD幾乎等同于“虛假新聞”。或者,就像《區塊》的首席執行官邁克·杜達斯說的那樣:“它相當于與其商業興趣相反的事實。”

“FUD防范基金”這一理念迅速得到了孫宇晨這類人的附和,后者是智能合約平臺波場的創始人。然而孫宇晨的支持便很能說明問題,因為有人不斷地用確鑿的證據指控孫宇晨開展各種形式的欺詐活動,包括波場白皮書和代碼抄襲,這些事件最終都被記者和研究人員曝光。

盡管存在明顯的公開證據,但孫宇晨一直在否認這些報道。然而希望澄清自己的趙長鵬對它的支持感到十分高興。趙長鵬自己此前似乎曾經威脅過《區塊》,同時也曾經表示,在談到中國的加密貨幣行業時,“有些事情還是不說為妙。”

The Block responded by publishing photos of the supposedly nonexistent office, and detailing that they had sourced information in the original report through firsthand witnesses, including building management. One source, a vendor, even claimed that CZ was personally present in the imaginary workspace.

Ultimately Binance turned out to have little substantive objection to The Block’s reporting. The Block did rephrase its headline, which now describes a “visit” by authorities rather than a “raid.” But Binance was ultimately left arguing that just because it had a place where people worked for the company, that didn’t make it an “office.”

Okay.

One commentator, seeming to speak as a proxy for Binance, took a particularly wild swing, saying that the office wasn’t an office because “Binance may have this presence here and there as clusters. They’re in a hub-and-spoke model.”

This, of course, describes nearly every modern company of any size. Fortune has offices in New York, San Francisco, London, and – yes, we admit it – Beijing.

The evasions ring especially hollow because, according to sources familiar with the situation, Binance was in talks about a possible strategic partnership with 區塊 as recently as this Fall. (Binance did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.)

The absurd contortions by Binance make just slightly more sense in light of pressures from government. Binance is officially based in Malta, but Zhao was born in China and the company appears to be working to expand the business there. But the lack of clear rule of law in China makes such expansion subject to the whims of government, and the raid/visit came just days after the People’s Bank of China ordered a crackdown on crypto scams and exchanges. By pushing back on The Block’s reporting, Binance may somehow be hoping to curry favor with government.

As for Binance’s threat to sue, it seems likely to have been posturing. Preston Byrne, a crypto-focused lawyer who has had his own conflicts with The Block, nonetheless warned that Binance had a lot to lose in litigation. “Proving a defamation case in the United States is a tall order. Binance obviously has considerable resources to bring litigation anywhere and against anyone it wishes, but [I] would query the wisdom of opening the kimono, so to speak, in a discovery process with a group of folks who buy ink by the barrel.”

In other words, a lawsuit would mean big exposure for Binance – and not just in court discovery. “The real story here is that an offshore exchange which made its name hawking worthless tokens to retail investors with no compunction felt that they could bully an upstart media publication into silence through the threats of lawsuits,” says Nic Carter, a crypto-focused investor at Castle Island Ventures. “This can’t possibly be doing them any favors as they try and ingratiate themselves to US regulators.”

However performative, the threat of a lawsuit did play well among crypto stans on social media. Zhao even followed it up by arguing that crypto startups should “allocate some funds for fighting FUD”. “FUD” – for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – has come in crypto circles to be roughly synonymous with “fake news.” Or, as 區塊 CEO Mike Dudas put it, “facts that run contrary to their business interests.”

The idea of a “FUD fighting fund” was quickly cosigned by none other than Justin Sun, founder of the smart-contract platform Tron. This is revealing because Sun has been repeatedly and credibly accused of various forms of deception, including plagiarizing Tron’s whitepaper and code, that were ultimately revealed by reporters and researchers.

Sun continually denied those findings despite public, obvious evidence, but Zhao seemed happy to have his support in the quest for truth. And Zhao himself has previously appeared to threaten The Block while arguing that when it comes to crypto in China, “some things are better left unsaid.”

?

加密貨幣領域對媒體的不信任有很多原因。確實,一些主流金融和商業新聞源未認真對待過加密貨幣背后的理念。很多傳說中的加密貨幣新聞網站實際上本身就是個騙子,只要給錢就報道。加密貨幣容易投資的事實意味著批判性的報道可能會引發眾多線上投資人的反感。事實上,似乎很多人都認為,比特幣價格下跌的罪魁禍首是《區塊》的報道。

但人們在這場紛爭中忽視了一點,記者并非只是那種對一切事物持批判態度的人士。他們是所有行業的免疫系統,會對任何功能障礙和即將來臨的危險狀況發出警告,從而希望在這些危險事物造成巨大傷害之前讓公司和投資者做好應對的準備。2017/2018年的加密貨幣泡沫便缺乏可信任的嚴肅報道,這一現象或許讓加密貨幣市場因為詐騙和歪點子而蒙受了數十億美元的損失。

以當前的這個例子為例:就算《區塊》不存在,沒有去報道中國的監管環境,但攻擊其報道的加密貨幣投資者將依然不得不面對未報道事實所帶來的后果。政府依然有能力在任何時候取締加密貨幣交易,只不過投資者無法獲得有關這一事實的深刻洞見。

卡特說:“如果這個行業拋棄了對事實真相的關注,那么它將陷入一片混亂。任何對不當行為的報道對于該行業來說都是純粹的利好消息,而且叫喊著‘FUD’的憤怒人群在意識到這一點后就不會那么驚慌失措。”(財富中文網)

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

There are a lot of factors to the cryptosphere’s distrust of the media. It’s true that some mainstream financial and business news sources have never taken the ideas behind crypto seriously. Many purported crypto-news websites are effectively scams themselves, taking payment for coverage. And the ease of investing in cryptocurrency means critical reporting is likely to generate backlash from a lot of people with money on the line – in fact, many seemed to blame a subsequent drop in bitcoin’s price on The Block’s reporting.

But what gets lost in that mess is that journalists aren’t just naysayers and scolds. They’re the immune system of any industry, warning of dysfunction and gathering storms, and hopefully giving companies and investors the ability to react before they become catastrophic. The lack of trusted, serious reporting during the 2017/2018 bubble arguably left the crypto market uniquely vulnerable to billions of dollars in scams and bad ideas.

To spell this out in the current case: if?The Block didn’t exist to report on the regulatory environment in China, the crypto investors who attacked its reporting would still have faced consequences from the unreported facts. The government would still have the ability to clamp down on crypto trading at any time – investors just wouldn’t have any insight into that fact.

“If this industry abandons the pursuit of truth, it will degenerate into chaos,” says Carter. “Anything that sheds light on malfeasance is a net good for the industry, and the baying crowds yelling ‘FUD’ would do well to recognize that.”

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