A letter to crypto media: Slow down, be thoughtful, and get the facts right

Cointelegraph’s bitcoin ETF blunder spiked the price of bitcoin — and illustrated the pitfalls behind publishing online news


Midjourney modified by Blockworks


Let’s get the obvious part out of the way: Cointelegraph screwed up massively yesterday.

Call it this year’s tweet — er, xeet? — heard round the crypto world. The crypto publication’s X account posted that BlackRock’s much-ballyhooed spot bitcoin ETF proposal had, miraculously, been approved.

Despite the lack of evidence, like a regulatory filing or document, the crypto world ran wild. Bitcoin’s price soared. Influencers signal-boosted the “news” with wild abandon. 

But the “news” fell apart almost as quickly as it began. Fox Business’ Eleanor Terrett scored the all-but-expected denial from BlackRock. Other confirmations swiftly followed. 

Cointelegraph, flailing in the virtual winds, first added a “reportedly” to its post, then removed it entirely. An apology and promise of internal investigation followed. 

The financial wreckage from the incident was swiftly apparent. Bitcoin’s price briefly touched $30,000 on Coinbase before gravity took hold once more. As much as $100 million in market positions were wiped out, chiefly on the short side. The social media dunkings commenced — even the US Securities and Exchange Commission got in it.

Later, Cointelegraph published a post detailing its investigation into the incident, claiming that “[t]he news lead originated from an unconfirmed screenshot posted by an X user who claimed it was from the Bloomberg Terminal.” The publication said its internal social media policies were violated when the tip was posted to its X account.

There are implications for crypto media within this situation — call it a disaster — that I’d like to unpack. To begin, let’s look at some comments by Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr, Cointelegraph’s editor-in-chief, that emerged via a video post on X. 

In the interest of fairness, it’s important to say that we don’t have the full remarks, just the video of part of a panel discussion shared by Timothée Semelin. Semelin said that Cornèr sought to highlight that the social media post was just that — a post, no article — which, yeah, that’s not a very productive distinction to draw, as if there’s a difference in 2023 when a news outlet puts something out in the world in any form. 

In the video, Cornèr (correctly) called the situation “disastrous” and “an example of what cannot happen.”

She goes on to say: “But this is what happens when we are having constant pressure to be the first with every news. And this is not a problem of journalism per se. It’s a problem of the society that, and of the technology — I’m talking about indexation of Google, and talking about social media where if you’re not the first, you’re the last. There’s no second, third, etc.”

Cornèr’s comments were cut off as she appeared to be saying “and this is a big problem.”

I think Cornèr is describing a real issue. But she’s misdiagnosing the patient — specifically, what led to Cointelegraph’s blunder. 

Publications face tough incentives from the likes of Google, X and other information technology giants. If you lack the heft of the majors, you’re left with the implicit need to elbow your way to the front. Even those majors are suffering, as Axios recently reported. 

I can see why the idea of muscling your way to the front of the pack with a news tip — sans article — that you think *could* be true might seem attractive. Bitcoin ETF news is, after all, all the rage. A surprise approval on a Monday morning isn’t the most impossible-seeming scenario. Being first to that news? Internet paydirt!

I suspect this is why some well-known crypto influencers (you know who you are) rushed to repeat Cointelegraph’s error, only to later qualify or delete their posts. Perversely, the rewards for being wrong online can be immense. 

Read more from our opinion section: Hot take: Someone at Alameda was actually good at their job

This incentive structure is also why many publications, crypto and mainstream alike, screwed up so badly in 2021 when they encountered the fake news that Walmart would accept litecoin payments.

Cointelegraph’s own investigation echoes this dilemma: “In an effort to publish the developments as soon as possible, Employee 2 posted the report to X without prior confirmation of the source’s veracity from the editor.”

How to fix this? First, stop treating your audience like it’s sitting in the Colosseum of Rome, awaiting the next bloodbath. Be slower, smarter, more thoughtful. Don’t yank something from Telegram and stick it on X. A crypto publication can move markets — act accordingly. 

If you are shooting for speed, optimize for it. Build a breaking news operation and figure out how to pay for it. Train your staff to deal with the uniquely high-pressure situations that arise during breaking news scenarios.

There’s something a bit deeper going on, too. I think the Solana Foundation’s Austin Federa made a good point: Crypto markets, he said, followed the news just as blindly as Cointelegraph did. Despite, you know, any available evidence to support the claim. 

“Markets,” Federa noted, “have as much growing up to do as media.”

Don’t miss the next big story – join our free daily newsletter.


Upcoming Events

Hilton Metropole | 225 Edgware Rd, London

MON - WED, MARCH 18 - 20, 2024

Crypto’s premier institutional conference returns to London in March 2024. The DAS: London Experience:  Attend expert-led panel discussions and fireside chats  Hear the latest developments regarding the crypto and digital asset regulatory environment directly from policymakers and experts   Grow your network […]

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

Frax report cover.jpg


Frax saw continued development in its frxETH liquid staking derivative and Fraxlend money market throughout 2023. Frax V3 introduces an RWA strategy to drive utility to the protocol's cornerstone product, the FRAX stablecoin.


In a bid to woo institutional crypto traders, Binance wants help from a bank


Musk’s hesitation to launch his own crypto made sense in previous cycles. But there’s no shame left around here — he should just go for it


Commissioner Peirce would have done things differently if she could when it comes to her agency’s crypto enforcement actions


MicroStrategy discloses the purchase of 16,000 bitcoin throughout November


Digital asset firms face potential new regulatory landscape under Treasury’s proposed authority expansion


Uniswap Labs will be providing trading APIs to Talos investors through Fireblocks