Are ‘Paid Shills’ Saying Bancor is Centralized? 

Confusion reigned Monday after crypto news outlet Crypto Briefing denounced decentralized exchange Bancor’s decision to block US users from its user interface as “centralized, censorship, and an oxymoron.”

A week prior, Bancor had announced that it would be “geofencing” bancor.network, the on-ramp to its trading protocol, from US investors in the wake of increased regulatory uncertainty. But critics, Crypto Briefing among them, cried that the whole point of Bancor was that it was fully decentralized, and didn’t need to bother about regulations.

This, of course, was a misconception. The Bancor protocol itself can still be accessed by US users and developers via the blockchain. There are only plans to block bancor.network, a user interface to the Bancor Protocol—which Bancor never claimed to be decentralized. Since Bancor smart contracts remain decentralized, someone else (who is not the Bancor Foundation) could build a front-end that is open to US users.

But nevertheless, an odd drama unfolded.

Something’s afoot

A piqued Crypto Briefing reader, a crypto industry insider who wished to remain anonymous, told Decrypt that he had tried to reach out to Zach Wheeler, the writer behind the erroneous Crypto Briefing article, to inform him of his mistake. 

But then things got weird. 

“I was going to reach out to the author to raise this point, but couldn’t find him,” said the source. “So I decided to do a reverse image search on his photo.” 

What did he find? 

Wheeler’s profile image, it turned out, was a garden variety Shutterstock stock image: “Man smiles braces.” 

The immediate assumption was that the account was a fake, and that a partisan, paid agent had posted the damning article anonymously. “We’ve seen this many times before—there are literally 1,000s of fake author accounts that post on shady crypto ‘news’ sites, then try to make the articles go viral on Reddit or Twitter,” said the reader. “They are paid shills, and the sites are definitely getting a cut.”

Not so fast. Couldn’t Wheeler just be a bona fide stock photo model who is flaunting his aesthetic talents to his readership? Or…something else? 

The answer to the mystery of Wheeler’s identity, it turns out, may be trivially simple. “Yes he’s real,” said a source at Crypto Briefing. “He’s quite private though and didn’t want his picture on the site.”

Asked for more proof, though, Crypto Briefing Editor-in-Chief Jon Rice demurred. “If one of my writers chooses to remain pseudonymous, I respect that right,” he said. “It has a clear precedent in this industry going back to 2008.”

Going back to 2008? As in, the creation of the momentous Bitcoin white paper? Is Rice implying that…Wheeler is Satoshi Nakamoto himself? 

Rice neither confirmed nor denied. 

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