The Associated Press has pulled the sale of an NFT depicting a video of migrants in an overcrowded boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea, following widespread criticism.
“Tomorrow's drop at noon EST on the AP Photography NFT Marketplace will feature video by @felipedana of migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean,” the AP’s now-deleted tweet read.
The tweet was met with fierce criticism for being insensitive and inappropriate, with replies accusing the news agency of "monetizing imagery of human suffering" and calling the NFT "a grotesque way to earn a profit."
Following the backlash, the AP has reversed course on the NFT. “This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT. It has not and will not be put up for auction. The tweet promoting it was also deleted,” Lauren Easton, the AP’s global director of media relations and corporate communications, told The Guardian. Reports suggest that AP staff, speaking in the outlet's official Discord channel, confirmed that “all photographers are consulted and are active participants in the [NFT] project.”
The NFT drew widespread condemnation. "What the fuck is wrong with @AP this is so far beyond the bounds of appropriate," John Stanton, editor of New Orleans-based news outlet The Gambit, tweeted.
Computer programmer and crypto-critic Stephen Diehl said the AP’s tweet “seems to undermine their credibility.”
Others went beyond the AP’s specific tweet and took aim at the AP’s broader Photography NFT Marketplace, which launched last year to showcase the news agency’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and support journalism through NFT sales.
Matt Boggie, who leads tech and product at the Philadelphia Inquirer, took to Twitter to “encourage the AP to reconsider this horrific, extractive, dehumanizing act, cancel this offering, and reconsider its entire NFT program.”
The AP’s foray into NFTs
Launched on January 31, 2022, the Associated Press' NFT marketplace includes images that have won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as “digitally enhanced depictions” of photographers’ work.
The marketplace runs on Polygon, a sidechain scaling solution for the Ethereum network.
“For 175 years, AP’s photographers have recorded the world’s biggest stories through gripping and poignant images that continue to resonate today,” Dwayne Desaulniers, the AP’s director of blockchain and data licensing said earlier this year.
In a tweet following the announcement that the migrant boat NFT sale had been canceled, the AP noted that its NFT marketplace is a "pilot program," and that its team was "reviewing our efforts".
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