While the world struggles to cope with deadly the coronavirus, a group of crypto enthusiasts has created a digital currency that allows holders to profit from the epidemic.
CoronaCoin (NCOV), according to a post on Reddit, is a token built on Ethereum that goes up in value the more people the virus kills and infects. The project, according to Sunny Kemp, an administrator for CoronaCoin’s Telegram group, was formed by “programmers and activists on 4Chan,” the controversial forum that helped spawn the hacker collective Anonymous, Decrypt reported.
“We developed the world’s first blockchain that tracks the spread of the virus based on it’s [sic] token supply. The token supply started at 7.6 billion and is burned every two days to keep up with official WHO statistics,” said Kemp.
The company’s website promises to donate funds to the Red Cross to help efforts to stop the virus from spreading.
How does CoronaCoin work?
The token supply is based on the world’s population – 7,604,953,650 according to the company’s Discord site. Every 48 hours, the token is burned to reduce supply in line with reports on the coronavirus’ spread. This deflationary measure is designed to push up the value of the remaining coins as more are burned.
“The benefit of documenting the spread of the virus on the Ethereum blockchain is that it is uncensorable. People behind the great firewall can view the real death statistics by checking our token contract on Etherscan.io” said Kemp.
The front page of the website has an interactive map tallying the total number of infections – at the time of writing it was at 71,030. According to Etherscan, there are nearly 600 addresses that have bought CoronaCoin.
They took nine days to build the project, and are currently developing a strategy game that uses the token. “We intend to launch tip bots so people can spread coronavirus on social media. This will help build public awareness,” said Kemp.
“A portion of funds raised will go to charity. This is our goal, to spread awareness and help fight the virus. For example, we are currently in talks with a biochemist who is working to develop drugs to fight the virus. These are the kinds of partnerships we want to build.”
Kemp explained the project has allocated 20% of its profits to registered charities.
Over on the project’s Discord, however, users have taken a more Machiavelian approach to the project. “So some guy at my work got the flu a couple of days ago and now is in the hospital cuz it developed into pneumonia that is affecting his heart somehow if he dies I suggest we add him to the burn count,” one user said.
When asked whether this incentivizes people to falsely report, or worse, encourage the spread, Pete Weathers, the admin on CoronaCoin’s Discord channel said, “It has been brought up before, and we recognize that aspect of the project. We would never advocate for anyone to do such a thing, obviously. It would be morally, and probably legally, wrong. We believe CoronaToken holders are responsible.”
Why build a cryptocurrency versus traditional fundraising? PeteWeathers said, “There are plenty of people out there advocating to help the relief efforts, but we thought this would be a good way to raise awareness in a unique and interesting way.”
The coronavirus is already turning out to be a big threat to the crypto industry, with operations and volumes expected to experience serious hits, CryptoNewsZ reported. The disease is showing no signs of slowing down, and new cases from around the globe are being reported every day. Apart from China, the coronavirus has been reported in countries including Japan, Germany, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, India, France, Iran, the US, and the UK, though most of the victims had visited China during or just before the outbreak.
Not everyone was impressed by the group’s altruism. While acknowledging that the concept had merit as a fundraising mechanism, Cryptopolitan had moral reservations: “The fact that a larger extent of the spread of coronavirus makes the coin’s investors make more money is enough to strike all the wrong chords and spark worldwide criticism. It makes us wonder if the outbreak has gotten the worst out of the crypto industry. Can it really stoop to this level where it is alright to enable people to make money from other people’s misery?
Some members of the crypto Twitter community concurred.
CrytoEase tweeted: “How low can some people go? With a “Proof-of-Death” consensus, is this the worst of the #crypto space?”
Meat tweeted: “I’m not going to link to it, but this CoronaCoin thing is probably rock bottom for crypto.”
If you’re tempted by the project, you’ll need a MetaMask wallet, and an account on the Saturn Exchange. Alternatively, you can do it the old fashion way and join the company’s bounty program to help spread the v̶i̶r̶u̶s̶ good word.