Bitcoin has fast become a global phenomenon. Since its launch in 2009, the digital currency has won the approval of young, tech-savvy investors. Unlike the dollar or the euro, there is no central government regulating Bitcoin, which has made it particularly popular among anti-authoritarians and libertarians. Elon Musk recently invested $1.5bn (£1.1bn), sending the price skyrocketing. At its peak, one Bitcoin was worth over $48,000.
But the currency has a weird side. A really weird side. Retailers sell sex toys that mirror its fluctuations in value. A co-founder of LinkedIn made a YouTube rap battle to explain its pros and cons. There was even a dodgy action movie starring Kurt Russell about money laundering. Robin Hood hackers, tricksy TikTokers, and Marxist broadcasters. Bitcoin has inspired all manner of weirdness. Here are ten bizarre facts about the contentious cryptocurrency.
10 Man Accidentally Throws $290 Million Into Landfill
We have all lost a bit of money through thoughtless mistakes. Who among us has not left a banknote in their jeans pocket and accidentally put it in the wash? But imagine throwing an old hard drive into landfill, then finding out it contains over $290 million (£210 million) in Bitcoin. For James Howells from Newport in South Wales, this nightmare scenario is a living reality.
Howells purchased 7,500 Bitcoins shortly after the currency’s launch in 2009. After spilling drink on his laptop, he decided to stash the hard drive away in an office drawer. Years later, Howells had “totally forgot about Bitcoin altogether,” and, in 2013, he binned the hard drive. At the time, it contained around $7.5m (£4.6m).
As you can imagine, Howells is desperate to retrieve his lost hard drive. He has even offered to pay the local council a quarter of the money for permission to excavate the site. But Newport council says this is not possible under their licensing permit. Given the cost and potential environmental damage of excavation, they refuse to do so “without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.”
9 ‘Robin Hood’ Hackers Donate Stolen Bitcoin
Anonymous ‘Robin Hood’ hackers are holding major corporations to ransom then donating some of the money to charity. The cybercriminals claim to have stolen several million dollars. They extort money using ransomware attacks. The hackers take control of a company’s IT system and refuse to leave unless they are paid. According to the dark web, they have already made two contributions to charity.
In October 2020, the shadowy altruists announced that they had given $10,000 to The Water Project. The Water Project is a charity that provides clean water to sub-Saharan Africa. They also donated to Children International, but the charity declined their money on moral grounds.
“We think that it’s fair that some of the money the companies have paid will go to charity,” the group explained. “No matter how bad you think our work is, we are pleased to know that we helped changed someone’s life.”
8 BitCast Sex Toys
Most investors enjoy the feeling of making a profit from their financial ventures. But now, thanks to BitCast, users can derive sexual pleasure from Bitcoin.
In December 2017, Camsoda launched an online service that allows people to link their sex toys to Bitcoin. BitCast tracks the currency’s market performance and feeds the information in real-time to your vibrator. If Bitcoin suddenly increases in value, you might feel an acute surge of pleasure. But if it drops, BitcCast will tell your toy to dial down its intensity.
7 Journalist Broadcasts The Communist Manifesto Into Space
Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your blockchains.
In March 2019, a technology journalist used Bitcoin to transmit a short extract from The Communist Manifesto into space. Jordan Pearson beamed his rabble-rousing message up into the atmosphere then back to Earth via a network of satellites.
Blockstream offers a satellite service that broadcasts Bitcoin-related information to most of the world. In 2019, the company updated that service to include messages. So Pearson decided to send a section of Marx and Engels’ famous text because, in his words, “why the hell not?”
With help from journalist Dan Williams, Pearson confirmed that Blockstream had beamed his Marxist message across the globe. As Williams explained, anyone with the right setup can send and receive satellite messages.
6 TikTok’s Misleading Trading Advice
In 2021, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning about unsound financial advice on TikTok. The FCA alerted users to accounts using the app to push high-risk trading practices. The worry is that TikTok users, many of them young and naive, are being drawn in by get-rich-quick schemes.
Some astrologers are even getting in on the act. Among the most popular is Maren Altman, an influencer with over a million followers. Altman creates surreal content that combines unsound financial advice, horoscopes, and a “sexy, Goth, dominatrix vibe.” In a recent video, she encouraged people to invest in Bitcoin based on the positions of the planets. “Venus is crossing Bitcoin’s sun,” she explained. “The sun is crossing Bitcoin’s Jupiter, and Bitcoin’s Jupiter is still doing cute shit.”
5 Crypto, The Bitcoin-Based Crime Drama Starring Kurt Russell
In 2019, Kurt Russell appeared in a strange financial crime drama based around corruption in the New York Bitcoin market. The movie, Crypto, received a tepid reception from both critics and regular viewers. Some described it as a “so-bad-its-good” tech drama. They said it reminded them of the cheesy Internet movies of The 1990s, like The Net and You’ve Got Mail.
The plot is mostly nonsense. It centers on a lucrative money-laundering scheme set up by a shadowy gang of Russian cybercriminals. And the cringe-worthy tagline—”Fear is the ultimate currency”—does the movie no favors either.
4 Larger Energy Consumption Than Argentina
Bitcoin uses more energy than the whole of Argentina, say analysts at Cambridge University. Bitcoin is created through an energy-expensive process called mining. Mining is a strange mix of puzzle-solving and verifying transactions. Both of these tasks eat up a vast amount of computer power.
In total, mining consumes 121.36 terawatt-hours of energy a year. That same amount could power every kettle in the UK for the next 27 years. Researchers say that if Bitcoin were a country, it would be in the top thirty global energy users.
The amount of energy used depends on the price of Bitcoin. As the price rises, the currency becomes more desirable. Miners are willing to burn through more electricity to get their hands on the next batch.
3 Some Say It Could Save The Porn Industry
The pornography industry is in crisis. Sex workers are increasingly struggling to put food on the table. While major platforms like PornHub generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year, some performers are expected to work for little money or the empty promise of exposure.
Some porn actors say that Bitcoin could hold the solution, but not everyone is convinced. For the last few years, Pornhub has allowed viewers to pay for content in cryptocurrency. For many sex workers, this is a key component of their online revenue. Viewers can pay their favorite performers directly over the internet. Porn actors are profiting from what they see as a more democratic way to sell their content, offering custom videos and live streams to a considerably-sized audience of customers.
But not everyone in the industry has welcomed Bitcoin with open arms. They point out that only a handful of users are prepared to pay for porn using Bitcoin. Many, they argue, are unwilling to pay at all. In 2018, a study by The Next Web found that less than one percent of Pornhub accounts paid in cryptocurrency. With MasterCard and Visa both recently parting ways with the adult platform, online payments are expected to dry up.
“There is no empathy or compassion for creators, at any level. If they are amateurs, then their porn ‘isn’t good enough to be paid for.’ If they are pros, then posting their content for free is ‘fine because they’re hoes with too much money,”’ argues Canadian performer God Ciara. “They view men who make money from porn as geniuses, but the women are just sluts with an iPhone.”
2 India’s Bitcoin Kidnappings
India has been hit by a wave of kidnappers demanding payment in Bitcoin. In December 2020, an eight-year-old boy was kidnapped in Karnataka while walking with his grandfather. They insisted that his father, a wealthy investor, pay 100 Bitcoin ($2.3m) for his son’s return.
Luckily, state police rescued the boy before his father paid. Six people were arrested. This kidnapping was the third case of attempted Bitcoin extortion to take place in the country since 2018. In Gujarat, one businessman even tried to fake his own kidnapping, hoping to scam $3m in Bitcoin.
1 LinkedIn Founder Creates Bitcoin Rap Battle
In September 2019, Reid Hoffman released a Bitcoin-themed rap battle video on YouTube. Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, was inspired after watching the musical Hamilton. He thought hip-hop would be an excellent way to explore the “vigorous debate raging between cryptocurrency and centralized currencies.”
The video sees Alexander Hamilton go head to head with Bitcoin’s enigmatic creator Satoshi Nakamoto. The unlikely MCs throw a wild array of boasts and insults at each other. “The banks serve Wall Street. Crypto serves all streets,” Nakamoto declares. Hamilton fires back, “Untraceable money—wow, so clever. One typo in your address? Now it’s gone forever.”
Although it seems like a gimmick, Hoffman’s video neatly sums up the conflicting attitudes towards Bitcoin. The rap battle shows how stubbornly some investors reject digital currencies. But it also explains that diehard Bitcoin fans refuse to grasp the currency’s many flaws.