UPDATE: Pink Taxi apologized for its ICO marketing materials, which another group accused it of using without permission. Pink Taxi issued a statement on Twitter acknowledging the confusion. After the jump.
Bitcoin bull John McAfee was accused of promoting a sham initial coin offering by a group called Pink Taxi, which allegedly stole intellectual property from a blockchain-based taxi platform called A2B Taxi Token.
The controversy erupted on May 17, after McAfee promoted an ICO for Pink Tax Group Ltd. U.K. on Twitter.
“I am advising and supporting the Pink Taxi ICO – created in response to the massive increase in sexual assaults on women, especially in Muslim countries,” McAfee tweeted. “They currently operate in 50 cities, hiring only women drivers trained to support women’s safety.”
I am advising and supporting the pink Taxi ICO – https://t.co/bH2by8US6l – created in response to the massive increase in sexual assaults on women, especially in Muslim countries. They currently operate in 50 cities, hiring only women drivers trained to support womens' safety. pic.twitter.com/Gs7mnpOs99
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 17, 2018
In response to a user question asking how much he charged to promote that ICO, McAfee boasted, “My tweets are now $500,000 per tweet. If clients want me to reply to comments, then it is $100,000 per reply.”
My tweets are now $500,000 per tweet. If clients want me to reply to comments, then it is $100,000 per reply. But what is your point? Obviously, people feel that it is worth it. Statistically, each tweet averages over $3 million in revenue for my clients – a 600% return.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 18, 2018
Less than 40 minutes after McAfee sent his tweet, A2B Taxi Token launched an epic salvo, claiming Pink Taxi had copied its “website design, content and its whitepaper” to promote its initial coin offering.
“Dear A2B Taxi community, someone took the advantage of our work and now they are being promoted by the top influencer,” the Lithuania-based company tweeted. “Pink Taxi copied our website design and content. Even our whitepaper.”
In an email to CCN, a rep from A2B Taxi Token accused Pink Taxi of being “scammers,” and slammed John McAfee for not doing proper due diligence on the projects he promotes.
“It is a pity that top influencers do not have a system to [conduct] due diligence before promoting projects and publish misleading information for investors,” A2B Taxi told CCN.
Marketing Materials Look Identical
A2B then attached a dizzying array of screenshots showing that Pink Taxi’s marketing materials are nearly identical to those found on the A2B Taxi Token website.
Blockchain expert Vytautas Kašėta, an executive with A2B Taxi, told CCN that Pink Taxi used his video to promote their ICO “on their scam site without permission.”
Pink Taxi posted the video in question on YouTube on May 14. It featured Vytautas Kaseta, touting him as an unnamed “blockchain expert.” Pink Taxi later took the video down amid a barrage of complaints from A2B Taxi.
The YouTube video posed on May 14 by Pink Taxi is identical to that of A2B Taxi, which posted its video two months earlier, in February 2018.
When contacted for comment, Pink Taxi told CCN it will email a response. John McAfee has not replied to CCN’s request for comment, but was defiant when contacted by A2B executive Tomas Stasiulevicius, who asked why he was promoting the ICO of a group that stole someone else’s work.
“What work??? I am unaware of a single city in which you are operating taxis,” McAfee replied on Twitter. “You are a scammer, my friend. I strongly suggest you drop this, unless you would like my FULL attention?”
What work??? I am unaware of a single city in which you are operating taxis. Your Twitter account only has produced 4 tweets, half of them to me. You are a scammer my friend. I strongly suggest you drop this, unless you would like my FULL attention?
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 17, 2018
While this latest ICO controversy will undoubtedly work itself out in time, it spotlights the epidemic of fraud and scams in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Most crypto investment promoters are frauds, according a report compiled by the Texas State Securities Board. Texas leads the United States in cryptcurrency crackdowns.
Report: 81% Of ICOs Are Scams
According to ICO advisory company the Satis Group, a staggering 81 percent of ICOs launched since early-2017 have been found to be scams. Given these sobering statistics, attorneys say that anyone promoting an ICO could be held responsible for bilking investors out of their money.
As CCN previously reported, former SEC attorneys have warned celebrities who endorse initial coin offerings that they could be sued for promoting sham ICOs. Like prospective investors, celebrities are being advised to do their own due diligence before shilling a crypto product.
“We are going to see lots of litigation surrounding the promoters of these ICOs,” said attorney David Silver, who’s overseeing a dozen cryptocurrency-related class action lawsuits.
Update: On May 18, McAfee tweeted the apology from Pink Taxi. “They have re-written their white paper and are taking action against the agency responsible,” he said.
Featured image from Flickr/Gage Skidmore.