Theft of several NFTs revives a heated debate on decentralization

The OpenSea NFT sales platform has “frozen” NFTs that have allegedly been stolen. The decision, made a few days ago, has launched an important debate in the crypto community.

I have been hacked. All my monkeys are gone. please help me Todd Kramer’s call for help, launched on Twitter on December 30, 2021, did not go unnoticed. In his tweet, Todd Kramer, the owner of an art gallery in New York, talked about his collection of NFTs, more specifically his Bored Apes Yacht Club, the highly coveted and very expensive tokens.

In several messages that have now been deleted, the gallery owner asked for help from the crypto community, but especially OpenSea, one of the main NFT sales platforms, and how many Bored Apes Yacht Club are traded. And OpenSea responded by freezing their sales.

NFTs (for non-fungible token in English, non-exchangeable tokens in French) have revolutionized the art market in a matter of months. These “tokens” make it possible to register forms of property deeds in the blockchain and thus allow authentication of “unique” web files. It is this technology that has made it possible to create an unprecedented virtual art market, which broke all records in 2021 – and which attracts greed.

The Bored Apes Yacht Club for sale on OpenSea // Source: OpenSea

NFT sales platforms are not decentralized

The NFT collection from Bores Apes Yacht Club is one of the most popular: the monkeys represented on tokens have been snapped up at gold prices. Todd Kramer, who took to Twitter to tell his story, explained that the 16 NFTs he was robbed of were worth 615 ETH, or just over $ 2 million. The theft allegedly took place through phishing after Todd Kramer clicked on a link that he believed led to a legitimate website.

Following his call for help on Twitter, Todd Kramer would have been contacted by OpenSea, and the platform would have frozen all sales of those “Monkeys”. ” Refresh … All monkeys are frozen. I’m waiting for news from the OpenSea teams. I learned my lesson well. […] I did not know that there were so many trolls […] can be seen on Decrypt, which could take a screenshot of tweets before being deleted by Todd Kramer.

Since then, NFTs still appear on OpenSea, but they are no longer available for sale – and they even carry a message that they have been blocked because ” suspicious activity “.

Theft of several NFTs revives a heated debate on decentralization
OpenSea page for one of the stolen NFTs // Source: OpenSea

A decentralized system, but an essential platform?

While the story may seem anecdotal (apart from the millions lost), it has nonetheless sparked an important debate in the crypto community on Twitter: a centralized entity, like OpenSea, really has the right to impose its rules in the decentralized world of NFT ‘is ?

During Todd Kramer’s now deleted tweets, many people disagreed with OpenSea’s method. ” It seems really anti-crypto to me to ask third parties to do this, and ideally they should not be able to. »Pointed out a Twitter user. ” In a true decentralized ownership system, no one should be able to interfere. »

Many people seem to share this opinion. On the social network, between mockery and suspicion of “false theft”, history has revived an old debate: can there really be a decentralized system on the Internet, which is dominated by large platforms, and therefore reproduces the mechanisms of a centralized system? For now, there is no answer to this question – although some believe that the switch to Web3, a decentralized Internet, could solve these problems.

Some rightly claim that NFTs can still be traded on other platforms, not just OpenSea. In fact, the platform is not the only one that allows the purchase and sale of NFT. But it is without a doubt one of the best known and most widely used, and its decision to act by blocking transactions inevitably calls into question part of the ideology of decentralization linked to blockchain.

The news of the freezing of Todd Kramer’s NFTs is going so much the worse because certain sales platforms have not previously protected victims of theft. By March 2021, several users of the NFT sales site Nifty Gateway had their NFTs stolen and the platform had not taken any special measures to prevent their sale. And a few days before the theft of NFTs from Todd Kramer, another twitter user had complained of a similar fate – without the platform doing anything.

The debate about platform responsibilities in the era of decentralization has only just begun.

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