It has been almost a decade since many of us, inspired by our friends around the world, occupied parks, public squares, and buildings. In the days after the 2008 financial crisis, we sought to build a new, more democratic society in defiance of established power, at the doorstep, on Wall Street. We stood up to Wall Street technocrats, corporate monopolists, and their army of corrupt media institutions. We experimented with building things in a way that inspired people all over the world. Ultimately, our movement was crushed, but our dreams and aspirations continue in many new places.
Many of us have been studying and taking inspiration from the work done to create a more decentralized internet, including with the Ethereum blockchain — some of which we find promising.
On the other hand, some multi-level marketing scams being done in the name of the Occupy movement (see “If Occupy created Bitcoin”) give us cause for serious concern.
Why we’re interested in Web3 & Ethereum
For those unfamiliar, Web3 is a radical vision for restructuring the internet away from predatory ad models, data mining, and state surveillance. Web3 seeks to rebuild the internet on principles of user ownership of data, interactions, and transactions.
Ethereum is a major component of the Web3 vision. It is a platform that combines decentralized applications (like bittorrent), cryptocurrency (like bitcoin), and a new innovation called smart contracts. Smart contracts enable communities to design new economic models, new forms of cooperation, and new social relations in a decentralized way away from bankers, government bureaucracies, and police enforcement. In many ways, these technologies are trying to achieve popular goals shared by Occupy Wall Street activists and supporters.
Ethereum has been used to create a diversity of interesting projects that many of us have been studying. Without endorsing any specific project, here are some projects we’ve found of particular interest:
Status.im — a decentralized and secure messenger app that also contains a cryptocurrency wallet and access to dozens of other decentralized applications, promising the potential to build up a whole new economy;
DAOstack — a software platform enabling organizations to build Decentralized Autonomous Organizations to govern themselves in the ways they decide.
uPort — a decentralized identity solution, allowing individuals to control their own data (from social data, to concert tickets, to healthcare records), controlling who can or cannot access their data, and offering a secure way to authenticate instead of Facebook social sign-on
GitCoin — a crowd-funding platform for open-source software, enabling these projects to fund long-term sustainability.
Our concerns about Sparkle
Sparkle is a new project being launched on top of Ethereum. Sparkle was created by Micah White, an activist who many of us would compare to the Craig Wright of the Occupy movement. His troubling behavior includes false claims of being “the Co-Creator of Occupy Wall Street.” Decentralized movements, like decentralized networks, exist through the commitments and hard work of thousands of people. Aside from co-creating the hashtag #occupywallstreet with Kalle Lasn of Adbusters, he was never a participant at Liberty Square (a/k/a Zuccotti Park) in NYC and, since 2013, has only focused on working to personally enrich himself. The first red flag about Micah appeared when he attempted to steal the twitter handle of his former employer, Adbusters. In 2014, he orchestrated a full hijack of both a movement twitter handle, @OccupyWallSt, and movement site, occupywallst.org, now solely dedicated to covering his projects, the only exception being coverage of the #OccupyDNC effort in 2016.
Micah White is now attempting to position himself among Ethereum’s community and cryptocurrency thought leaders as an integral leader of the Occupy movement (which he is not) and further use those credentials to launch a new Ethereum-based project in the name of Occupy, called Sparkle.
While this may appear to many as simply a poorly conceived project by a naive person, to some in the Occupy movement, it seems more like a predictable scam so obviously unethical that it would make a 2017 ICO exit-scammer blush.
Sparkle’s basic proposal is a 2% tax on all transactions, which is redistributed proportionally to the largest holders of Sparkle (i.e. Micah himself). Someone who holds 20% of the Sparkle economy would receive 20% of all tax revenues, ensuring that the rich get richer. Not only do the rich get richer, but the poor also get much poorer because they are the ones disproportionately targeted by sales taxes.
Furthermore, Micah ensures that he maintains a monopolist status in his platform by also taking 1% of all purchased Sparkle, and another 3% if someone tries to swap for their ETH back. Basically, Sparkle is a thinly veiled platform to enrich Micah himself, with no other real value proposition.
In summary, every time anyone purchases Sparkle, Micah is paid a 2% fee. Anytime anyone sells-back their Sparkle, Micah is paid a 3% fee.
Dan Finlay, founder of the MetaMask Ethereum wallet, recently had his name used by Micah to give the project legitimacy, even though Dan’s own feedback for the project was ignored. Here’s how Dan expressed his concerns in a blog post:
“One issue was that as I started reading, the release date was already written in the contract, 5 days out, and so it was fairly clear that this was scheduled for release regardless of what I wrote, which is what happened. I provided a simple document of notes, but I did not hear back until the launch, and clearly this feedback did not effect any change in the project.
“While I agree with both Micah and Vitalik that wealth inequality is bad, I posit that transactional inequality is also very bad, in the other direction, exacerbating the problem!
“The poor spend more of their wealth in a given period of time than the rich do. In fact, in the U.S., the bottom 30% spend 182% of their income (according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics), putting them deeper and deeper in debt.
“If you combine this with a redistribution in proportion of total wealth, you find yourself taxing the poorest people deeper into debt, while distributing it according to the prior distribution, which gets worse with each transaction.”
This project, Sparkle, isn’t what Ethereum should be about, and it certainly isn’t what Occupy Wall Street is about.
While early indications look like Sparkle is unlikely to gain major traction, Sparkle is most likely the first of many attempts of this type.
Let’s Do Better
We are delighted that so many in the Ethereum community have so much respect and excitement about the work we did with Occupy Wall Street. We’re excited to explore new forms of collaboration between our respective communities, and to explore ways we can create a better world for the 99% together. This is an invitation to start those conversations.
Let’s get started.