People in Shanghai turn to NFTs to record COVID lockdown and fight censorship.

Unable to leave their homes for weeks, many of the city’s 25 million residents have erupted online, condemning the draconian shutdown measures and difficulties in obtaining food, and telling difficult stories, such as those about patients unable to get medical treatment.

This has intensified the game of cat and mouse with China’s censors, who have promised to escalate Internet police and group chats to prevent what they describe as rumors and divisive efforts about the bubbling public frustration over the shutdown.

While some people have continued to publish such content, others turn to NFT marketplaces as the world’s largest, OpenSea, where users can monetize content and buy or sell it using cryptocurrencies, which is partly attracted by the fact , that the data recorded on the blockchain is indelible.

The culmination of Shanghai’s coin moment is rooted in April 22, when netizens battled overnight censorship to share a six-minute video titled “The Voice of April,” a montage of recorded voices during the Shanghai epidemic.

As of Monday, 786 different video-related items can be found on OpenSea along with hundreds of other NFTs related to the Shanghai lockdown.

On April 23, a Chinese Twitter user following the imFong handle said in a highly retweeted post, “I turned the ‘April Voice’ video into NFT and froze its metadata. This video will exist forever on IPFS,” with reference to the interplanetary file system, a type of distributed network.

Like most major foreign social media and news platforms, Twitter is blocked in China, though residents can access it using VPNs.

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

He even hit an NFT based on a screenshot of Shanghai’s COVID lockdown map showing how most of the city has been cordoned off from the outside world.

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

Other content from Shanghai available on OpenSea as NFTs for sale includes Weibo posts containing complaints about lockdown measures, images from quarantine centers and artwork inspired by life during incarceration.

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

He started making money on them in the NFT, having been on the market since the end of last year, and has now managed to sell nine of his works at an average price of 0.1 there ($ 290)

His plays include scenes with PCR tests as well as demands for government rations from locals.

“I chose the Mao-era propaganda style for these plays because some people say the lockdown situation sets Shanghai back,” Fong said.

Although China has banned cryptocurrency trading, it sees the blockchain as a promising technology, and NFTs have gained popularity in the country, being embraced by state media and even technology companies like Ant Group and Tencent Holdings.

The long-running shutdown of Shanghai, China’s financial center, is part of Beijing’s controversial “zero COVID” strategy, a policy that poses growing risks to its economy china-struggles -options- covid-threaten-economic-goals-2022-04-28.

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

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