Let’s get one thing straight right now: “crypto” means “cryptography.” It does not mean “cryptocurrency.” Unless you’re a person who thinks the blockchain is the future, that is, which is how we ended up with the dumbest news cycle this side of a measles outbreak.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reporter and tall lost son of Gizmodo William Turton tweeted that the “NSA is working to build quantum resistant crypto,” based on comments made by Anne Neuberger, who now leads the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, DC.
Before you could say “hodl,” some enterprising bloggers caught Turton’s tweet and turned it into content, apparently thinking they had some sticky news on their hands. The problem is, they were dumb and wrong.
You see, “NSA” stands for National Security Agency, a government agency long known for its work on encryption. It does not, as you might have already deduced, stand for NASA. That key detail eluded Forbes contributor Naeem Aslam, who concluded from Turton’s 29-word tweet that the American space agency was developing a cryptocurrency. Then he wrote an entire blog about the wrong agency doing a thing nobody said it was doing. I mean, Jesus Christ.
Understanding the risks to its pristine reputation, Forbes soon deleted Aslam’s blog without explaining why, but we can safely assume it’s because it was based on two wrong things taken from a single tweet. We were unable to obtain a copy of the blog before Forbes took it down, but Turton captured evidence of the glorious self-own.
Aslam did not immediately respond to our request for comment on why he thought “NSA” meant “NASA” and “crypto” obviously meant “cryptocurrency.”
If this stopped with a fuckup by someone on the Forbes contributor network, I wouldn’t be writing any of this. Sadly, hilariously, and bafflingly, it did not.
Cointelegraph picked up the non-news. As did Dutch website Alles Over Crypto, Switzerland’s the Cryptonomist, and Finance Magnates, which describes itself as a “global B2B provider of multi-asset trading news.” All of these examples, at least, managed to identify the correct agency that Turton’s tweet was initially referring to.
Perhaps the most surprising is a slightly skeptical blog from CoinDesk, an established and decent news outlet for cryptocurrency news. The author of the piece, CoinDesk’s Daniel Palmer, did note “that Neuberger’s comment may indicate that the NSA is working on a cryptography technology, not a cryptocurrency, with the twin meanings of the term ‘crypto.’” Yes! True! Probably a thing to check first! (Palmer declined my request for comment and has since updated his article.)
Turton also declined my request to comment beyond his tweets, citing reasons that I assure you are very reasonable. Politico reporter Eric Geller, who also attended the Billington event, said of the very wrong coverage of Turton’s tweet, “You absolutely hate to see it,” which is debatable.
So let’s just remember that just because everything is weird now, it’s not NASA-making-a-cryptocurrency weird. Of course, there’s always tomorrow. And none of this would have happened if Turton had written “cryptography” instead.
Update 8:22 am, Sept. 6: CoinDesk’s Palmer has since updated his article at the top to note that Turton meant cryptography.