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Feb. 28, 2022, 7:48 a.m.
Business Models

AP cancels auction of overcrowded migrant boat NFT after outcry

The AP’s NFT marketplace is still up; a “commemorative NFT” by Anja Niedringhaus, the German AP photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014, is being resold for $1.5 million.

The AP will not auction off the NFT of “migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean,” as it had planned to on Friday, after many complaints that the auction was a blatant attempt to profit from human suffering. The NFT marketplace it launched at the end of January, however, remains up and running.

The AP deleted the tweet sent at 2 PM on Thursday about the auction. “This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT. It has not and will not be put up for auction,” Lauren Easton, AP’s director of media relations, told me in an email.

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

The AP launched its NFP photography marketplace at the end of January with the “white-label NFT marketplace” company Xoaa. “NFT price points will vary,” a press release noted at the time. “As a not-for-profit news cooperative, proceeds go back into funding factual, unbiased AP journalism.”

Two “commemorative NFTs” by Anja Niedringhaus — the German AP photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014, and a 2007 Nieman Fellow — were auctioned off this week at 0.66 ETH, about $1789, each.

NFTs purchased through the AP’s site can be resold there, with the AP taking a 10% fee “inclusive of payment processor fees.” The AP sold another Anja Niedringhaus NFT, “Splash in Kabul,” for $1,799 3 days ago; that buyer is now trying to resell it for 532 ETH — roughly $1.4 million, at the moment.

An NFT of Noah Berger’s “Marsh Fire,” first bought for $399, is being resold for 35.52 ETH, or about $99,999 at the moment.

Here’s a good thread filled with screenshots from the AP staff’s official Discord, where staffers expressed dismay over the migrant boat NFT and the program in general. “Clearly what happened tonight doesn’t have to do with whether the photographers are consenting,” one wrote, after it was made clear that AP photographers have to actively agree to have their work in the program. “It has to do with the consent of the people in the boat, and whether a video of them should be turned into a commodity. How are you deciding what photos get turned into NFTs and do you even recognize that something went wrong here other than that you went viral?”

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (laura_owen@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Feb. 28, 2022, 7:48 a.m.
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