Elon Musk on Wednesday briefly switched his Twitter profile picture to a $24.4 million NFT, before being asked by the co-head of Sotheby’s digital art division to take the image down.
Musk, 50, appeared to have taken a screenshot of a collage of an image entitled ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’, which sold at auction in September.
The NFT features 107 images of cartoon apes, and was bought by an unknown bidder.
NFTs are bitcoin-like digital tokens that act like a certificate of ownership, and live on a blockchain.
Musk’s use of the image was noticed by Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s.
‘@elonmusk, as much I admire your work I’d like you to remove your pfp that I created for our Sotheby’s sale,’ Bouhanna tweeted.
‘Or you credit me.
‘Happy to send you the original file minted with the buyer approval.’
Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s, noticed on Wednesday morning that Musk has screenshotted his work
Half an hour later, Musk appeared to reply to Bouhanna, mocking the NFT community
The image Musk used was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in September for $24.4 million
Musk did not reply directly, but instead tweeted half an hour later: ‘I dunno … seems kinda fungible.’
Several hours later, the ape image was gone, replaced with a photo of a child playing with a rocket.
Musk was thought by some to be mocking the NFT industry, one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the market for the digital art had ‘collapsed’, with sales down 92 percent from its September peak.
By Wednesday afternoon, Musk had switched his profile photo, and instead of the NFT featured a child playing with a rocket
The paper cited data from website NonFungible, which reported that sales fell to a daily average of about 19,000 this week – compared to about 225,000 in September.
The number of active wallets in the NFT market fell 88 percent to about 14,000 last week from a high of 119,000 in November.
There have been significant signs of a drop in interest.
An NFT of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold in March 2021 for $2.9 million to Sina Estavi, the chief executive of Malaysia-based blockchain company Bridge Oracle.
Estavi put the NFT up for auction earlier this year, but did not receive any bids above $14,000, so cancelled the sale.
In April, a Snoop Dog curated NFT, titled ‘Doggy #4292,’ was sold for $32,000 worth of the cryptocurrency ether.
The NFT, an image of a green astronaut standing on what looks like a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, is now up for auction, with an asking price of $25.5 million but the highest current bid is $210.
The rapper – a proud owner of a Bored Ape NFT, which he has as his Twitter profile pic, and which he has worn on a sweatshirt on TV – tweeted his support of Musk’s interest in the trades.
‘Ay @elonmusk! Let’s take our Apes 2 the moon. Higher n higher. LFG!!!’ he tweeted.
Are NFTs over? Bored Ape owners hope not
NFTs – Non-fungible Tokens – are digital downloads which are traded; often art, but they can be works of music or any unique creation.
Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work.
Buyers usually get limited rights to display the digital artwork they represent, but many see the purchase as a bragging right and an asset to be traded.
In February 2021, Christie’s sold an NFT by Beeple, announcing the sale as the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house.
The NFT, ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, went for $69 million – making Beeple one of the top three most-valuable living artists.
By the end of 2021, $25 billion had been spent on NFTs.
In February 2022, Julian Assange and Pak’s Clock NFT became the second-most expensive single NFT ever sold when it went for $58 million.
The NFT depicts a timer that counts the number of days Assange has spent in prison.
Bored Ape launched in April 2021, with their designs costing around $190.
Now they are a status symbol: Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Eminem and footballer Neyman Jr. all use theirs as a Twitter photo, and other famous owners include Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber.
The company behind Bored Ape, Yuga Labs, brands ownership of one of their NFTs like membership of a club, and holds parties and meet-ups for those who can prove ownership – some of the events online, and some at glitzy in-person gatherings.
On May 1 the company launched a new spinoff called Otherside – selling 55,000 plots of digital land for the total equivalent of $320 million, making it possibly the largest mint of an NFT project to date.
Otherside is a metaverse gaming platform in which users’ NFTs could be playable characters.
Elon Musk is pictured on Monday at the Met Gala, with his mother Maye
Earlier on Wednesday, a British parliamentary committee scrutinizing draft online safety legislation invited Musk to discuss his plans to buy Twitter and the changes he’s proposing for the social media platform.
Parliament’s digital committee asked the Tesla CEO on Wednesday to give evidence about his proposals ‘in more depth.’
Musk thanked the committee for their invitation but declined, saying it was too early to give an answer.
‘I am honored and thank the Parliament for their invitation, but it would be premature at this time to accept, given that there has not yet been a shareholder vote’ to approve the deal, he said in an email to The Associated Press.
The committee said it is interested in Musk’s plans, especially his intention to roll out verification for all users, which echoes its own recommendations to the U.K. government.
Musk has said he wants Twitter to ‘ authenticate all humans,’ an ambiguous proposal that could be related to his desire to rid the website of automated spam accounts.
The U.K. government’s online safety bill, which is being examined by lawmakers in Parliament, would give regulators wide-ranging powers to crack down on digital and social media companies.
Among the bill’s measures aimed at combating online abuse is a requirement for the biggest platforms to give users the option to verify their identity and the choice not to interact with unverified users.
It’s not the first time the committee has invited a tech boss to testify.
In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined an invitation to answer questions as part of its investigation into fake news.
Bill Gates warns that Musk could make misinformation on Twitter WORSE after his $44BN acquisition – and refuses to say if he shorted Tesla as Elon suggested he did
Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned that his billionaire rival Elon Musk could potentially make Twitter a worse platform – and refused to say whether or not he shorted Tesla, as Musk has alleged.
On Wednesday, Gates spoke at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit and was asked about Musk’s potential impact on Twitter following his $44 billion acquisition of the social media platform last month.
Gates said that while Musk has a good track record, he could make misinformation on the platform worse.
‘He actually could make it worse,’ Gates said.
‘That’s not his track record. His track record with Tesla and Space X is pretty mind-blowing at putting together a great team of engineers and taking people who work in those fields in a less bold way and really showing them up.
‘I kind of doubt that’ll happen this time but we should have an open mind and never underestimate Elon.’
But Gates did question Musk’s intentions with the app.
The South African-born billion has said his purchase of Twitter is motivated primarily by a wish to restore the app as a place for the free exchange of ideas, and has repeatedly said he wants to move away from ‘censorship’ and err on the side of free speech.
On Wednesday Gates spoke at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit and was asked about Musk’s potential impact on Twitter following his acquisition
Gates said that while Musk has a good track record, he could make the misinformation crisis on the app worse. Above, Musk appears at the Met Gala red carpet Monday
Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has criticized Twitter’s moderation policies.
‘You know, what’s his goal?’ Gates asked. ‘When he talks about the openness, how does he feel about something such as “vaccines kill people” or that “Bill Gates is tracking people” is that one of the things he feels should be spread? so It’s not totally clear what he is going to do.’
‘Are his goals for what it ends up being, does it match this idea of less extreme falsehoods spreading so quickly, weird conspiracy theories, does he share that goal or not?’ Gates pondered.
Last month Musk dissed Gates’ gut on Twitter posting a photo of the Microsoft mogul alongside Apple’s controversial pregnant man emoji ‘in case you need to kill a boner’
Musk appeared for the first time in public since inking his $44 billion Twitter deal Monday, walking the Met Gala red carpet with his mother, the model Maye Musk
Gates also refused to say whether or not he personally shorted Tesla ‘It’s possible the stock went down and whoever shorted the stock made money, I don’t know’
Gates also added that he has not taken Musk’s recent tweets about him personally.
Last month Musk dissed Gates’ gut on Twitter posting a photo of the Microsoft mogul alongside Apple’s controversial pregnant man emoji ‘in case you need to kill a boner.’
Gates also refused to say whether or not he personally shorted Tesla, saying that climate change was a focus of the Gates Foundation.
‘It’s possible the stock went down and whoever shorted the stock made money, I don’t know,’ he said.
‘I don’t think whether one’s short or long Tesla is a statement about your seriousness about climate change,’ he added.
‘I applaud Tesla’s role in helping with climate change. I have nothing but positive things to say about Elon, if he makes Twitter worse, fine, I’ll speak out about that, but I wouldn’t assume that’s what’s going to happen,’
Gates, the world’s third richest man after Musk and Jeff Bezos, took a shot earlier this year at the Tesla CEO after the electric vehicle maker announced taking a $1.5 billion stake in Bitcoin.
‘Elon has tons of money and he’s very sophisticated, so I don’t worry that his Bitcoin will sort of randomly go up or down,’ Gates told Bloomberg.
‘I do think people get bought into these manias who may not have as much money to spare, so I’m not bullish on Bitcoin. My general thought would be that if you have less money than Elon, you should probably watch out,’ he said.
Gates has also previously made comments about electric trucks like the Tesla Semi not being viable, which Musk countered.
In an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, Musk said he believes that the Microsoft founder had a big short position on Tesla stocks at one point.
‘I heard that at one point he had a large short position. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems weird,’ Musk told Rogan.
‘People I know who know the situation pretty well, I asked them “are you sure?” and they said “yes, he has a huge short position on Tesla.” That didn’t work out too well.’
The tweet came hours after it was reported Musk is poised to collect a $23billion bonus after electric car company Tesla reported its record quarterly profits.
Critics have questioned why Musk, who has enough money to change ‘the fabric of American society’ has instead decided to spend it on a social media platform.
‘It would just be nice if Musk decided to get on board with humanitarian efforts and spend more money on something meaningful, let’s say this country’s blights of homelessness and poverty. Instead, he bought Twitter,’ wrote Suzette Hackney in an OpEd for USA Today.
When asked why he has not spent the $44billion on charity, philanthropy or to do ‘more good’, Musk told Entertainment Tonight: ‘Well I do do a lot of things philanthropically and really my companies are intended to do good for the future of humanity.’
Musk pointed to his companies, noting how Tesla aims to ‘accelerate the advent of sustainable transport and energy’ while Space X is ‘providing internet to the least served people around the world’.
Musk added: ‘We’ve also been able to help Ukraine with the Starlink terminals and give them connectivity in some of the hardest hit areas.
‘Aspirationally I am trying to do good for humanity and the future of civilization.’