Shanghai residents are turning to NFTs to register COVID blockade and fight censorship

HONG KONG, May 4 (Reuters) – Shanghai residents are turning to blockchain to preserve memories of the month-long city blockade for COVID-19, coining videos, photos and artwork that capture their ordeal as non-fungible tokens to ensure they can be shared and avoid deletion.

Unable to leave their homes for weeks on end, many of the city’s 25 million residents have unleashed their frustrations online, venting on draconian blockages and food supply difficulties and sharing stories of hardship, such as patients who are not. were unable to receive medical treatment.

This has escalated the cat-and-mouse game with Chinese censors, who have vowed to intensify internet police and group chats to prevent what they describe as rumors and efforts to fuel discord over seething public frustration over the blockade.

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While some people have defiantly continued to republish such content, others are turning to NFT markets like the largest in the world, OpenSea, where users can mint content and buy or sell it using cryptocurrencies, attracted in part by the fact that data recorded on the blockchain cannot be deleted.

The pinnacle of the Shanghai blockade’s minting moment has its roots on April 22, when netizens battled censorship overnight to share a six-minute video titled “The Voice of April,” a montage of voices recorded in the course of the Shanghai epidemic. Read more

As of Monday, 786 different articles related to the video can be found on OpenSea, along with hundreds of other NFTs related to the block in Shanghai.

On April 23, a Chinese Twitter user with the imFong handle said in a widely retweeted post: “I coined the ‘Voice of April’ video in an NFT and froze its metadata. This video will exist forever on the IPFS. “, referring to the interplanetary file system, a type of distributed network.

Like most major social media and foreign news platforms, Twitter is blocked in China, although residents can access it via VPN.

A Shanghai-based programmer told Reuters he was among those in the city who saw their effort to keep the video alive as part of a “popular rebellion.”

He himself coined an NFT based on a screenshot of the Shanghai COVID block map, showing how much of the city has been isolated from the outside world.

“Being stuck at home because of the outbreak leaves me a lot of time,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other Shanghai content available on OpenSea as NFT for sale includes Weibo posts containing curb complaints, images from inside quarantine centers, and artwork inspired by life under lockdown.

Simon Fong, a 49-year-old freelance designer from Malaysia who has lived in Shanghai for nine years, began creating satirical illustrations of life in isolation in the style of Maoist-era propaganda posters.

He started minting them in NFT, having dabbled in the market since late last year, and has now managed to sell nine of his works for an average price of 0.1 ether ($ 290).

His pieces include scenes that dramatize PCR tests, as well as residents’ requests for government rations.

“I chose the Mao-era propaganda style for these pieces because some people say the blockade situation is driving Shanghai backwards,” Fong said.

Although China has banned cryptocurrency trading, it sees blockchain as a promising technology, and NFTs are gaining ground in the country, embraced by state media and even tech companies including Ant Group and Tencent Holdings.

The prolonged lockdown on Shanghai, China’s financial hub, is part of Beijing’s controversial zero-COVID strategy, a policy that presents growing risks to its economy.

The COVID outbreak in Shanghai, which began in March, was the worst in China since the first months of the pandemic in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected in the city.

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Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Brenda Goh and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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