It’s one of the most horrifying representations of the 9/11 terror attacks, and somebody thought it could make them a quick buck. Users on GameStop’s fledgling NFT marketplace were flabbergasted over the weekend when they saw somebody was selling a non-fungible token evoking The Falling Man, a photo of a man jumping from the North Tower of the World Trade Center as they were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
The image caught a wave of attention on Reddit and the crypto-critical blog Web3isGoingJustGreat first picked up on the hubbub. According to forum posts, an artist only known as Jules put the NFT titled “Falling Man” up for sale. It clearly evokes AP photographer Richard Drew’s photo The Falling Man, although replaces the unknown man with an astronaut, akin to the marketplace’s mascot. The NFT was reportedly minted 25 times and originally sold for .65 ETH, or $990, though that price later dropped to .029 ETH, or $46.
The NFT had been up for nearly two weeks, having been minted July 12, according to a preserved version of the site thanks to Wayback Machine. The GameStop takes a 2.25% cut from each NFT sale.
GameStop did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, though according to screenshotted messages posted online, GameStop said Saturday that the NFT was being removed “entirely” and that Jules was having their minting ability removed. At least eight people bought the NFT before it was taken down. The company wrote on its Twitter that those who bought the NFT can still transfer it between wallets, but they won’t be able to sell it.
GameStop entered the NFT space back in May, and fully brought its beta marketplace online this month. Unlike the beleaguered NFT trading platform OpenSea, GameStop requires users to become “approved” before they can mint an NFT on the platform, according to the company’s support page, though there is no data on whether the company reviews any of its NFTs for violating its content guidelines. OpenSea had to learn that fact the hard way, and earlier this year they started employing real humans with real eyeballs in order to crack down on fakes permeating the platform.
But of course, many have pointed out that OpenSea allows many of these gross and copyright-violating NFTs. There’s a listing for an NFT of the actual The Falling Man photograph “owned” by at least one user on the platform. Here’s another one that takes inspiration from the photo. And this isn’t the first time people have tried to make money off of mass terror events. In January, a French surgeon was accused of trying to sell x-rays of a 2015 terror attack victim as an NFT.
In a 2021 interview with Esquire, Richard Drew, the original The Falling Man photographer, said he had been shooting a maternity fashion show in Bryant Park when the first plane struck the North Tower. He was horrified at what he witnessed as he photographed the tower’s explosion, along with the people who fell from the towers. The continuing reaction to the photo has brought distress and discomfort, especially to the families of the victims from the 2001 terror attack.
Yet an image of the “Falling Man” NFT was also showing up in Google searches when looking for GameStop’s NFT store, according to the Web3 blog writer Molly White.
Meanwhile, GameStop had been seeing rapid growth in its NFT marketplace for the first few days it opened, even surpassing Coinbase in sales volume. However, the rush is starting to die off. Ars Technica reported last week based on sales numbers that trading seems to be declining far below what was projected based on launch day sales.