It had all the ingredients of a vintage Crypto Twitter scam: a dubious quid pro quo involving 20 million dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency, a shady crypto startup with a history of making grand, spurious gestures, and the inevitable reference to Elon Musk.

Except this time it wasn’t a scam. It was just more crass self promotion from TRON CEO Justin Sun.

“To celebrate #BTT & #USDT-#TRON success,” Sun tweeted on Tuesday, “I am planning a $20m free cash airdrop. Good news-it's coming, bad news-I may decide to give away more! First, I will randomly pick 1 winner for a #Tesla up until 3/27! To apply, follow me and RT this tweet! Simple!”

Sun’s post, apparently, freaked out even some of his most diehard, credulous adherents. Within hours, he was forced to post an update, clarifying that his account had not been “hacked” and that he was indeed dropping $20 million from the sky. (Nevertheless, he still snagged ... 31,000 retweets.)


But the post, in voice and tone, evokes the same barely-literate, appeal-to-your-dumbest-follower pitch-style deployed by the authors of those ubiquitous Twitter “sockpuppet” scams: the bitcoin “giveaways” that persuade gullible investors that, if they dispatch several bitcoins to a mysterious, unverified address, a celebrity—normally Elon Musk—will recompensate them with a ten-fold increase.

Yet perhaps the $1.4 billion market-capitalized TRON has succeeded where others have failed precisely because it is willing to debase itself in this way. Its audience is composed of hold-outs from the ICO bubble’s glory days, and it serves up the same platitudes and snakeoil that won them over then: think Floyd Mayweather extolling the virtues of a “crypto credit card” (whose basic mechanics he clearly had little grasp of) or the gaudy dollars-cascading-like-rain pledges of Bitconnect.

Justin Sun runs his (probably) legitimate business like it’s a scam. In Cryptoland, that’s effective.


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