AP Calls Off Sale of Stranded Migrants NFT After Twitter Outcry

“This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT,” Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson, told Blockworks

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key takeaways

  • The original tweet advertising the NFT auction has since been deleted by the AP
  • AP launched its photojournalism NFT marketplace at the end of January

Following widespread outcry, the Associated Press has nixed the sale of a video NFT depicting an overcrowded group of migrants clinging to an inflatable raft in the Mediterranean.

The 145-year-old news collective initially touted the NFT (non-fungible token) sale, slated to begin Friday, on Twitter. The AP backtracked Thursday night in the face of heavy social media criticism.

“Tomorrow’s drop at noon EST on the AP Photography NFT Marketplace will feature video by @felipedana of migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean,” the agency wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted.

A screenshot of the now-deleted Associated Press tweet

The sale illuminates questions about journalism as a public service — especially when it comes to laying bare human suffering and uncovering inequities — and profiting from those accounts.

“The Associated Press is lost. Journalists at this organization should speak up and say, “When we document human suffering, the purpose is to inform the world, not to profit off NFT sales,” Michael David Smith, managing editor at NBC Sports, tweeted.

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Software engineer and Web3 writer Molly White said the decision to “monetize a video of human suffering” made obsolete “any goodwill the AP might have had for their NFT project.”

“The already horrific NFT announcement was particularly ill-timed, given its juxtaposition on many Twitter feeds amongst news of Russian military action against Ukraine,” White tweeted.

Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson, told Blockworks in a statement that the NFT was “a poor choice of imagery” that “has not or will not be up for auction.”

“AP’s NFT marketplace is a very early pilot program, and we are immediately reviewing our efforts,” Easton said. “As a not-for-profit, AP’s mission is to inform the world with accurate, unbiased journalism. That remains our primary focus.”

AP first launched its photography NFT marketplace at the end of January, then billed as a way to give “collectors the opportunity to access AP archives and collect unique NFTs — including AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning images.”

The marketplace has since released NFTs on a rolling basis, with prices ranging from $219 to $1,799. Proceeds go to the non-profit newsroom.

“AP’s photographers have recorded the world’s biggest stories through gripping and poignant images that continue to resonate today,” Dwayne Desaulniers, AP director of blockchain and data licensing, previously told Blockworks. “As new audiences and opportunities emerge on-chain and adopt the benefits of NFTs, we’re watching closely and responding in order to find the right models to present AP journalism on-chain.”


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