The theft of multiple NFTs reignites a heated debate on decentralization

OpenSea’s NFT sales platform has “frozen” NFTs that are allegedly stolen. The decision, taken a few days ago, sparked an important debate within the crypto community.

I was hacked. All my monkeys are gone. Can you help me please “Todd Kramer’s plea for help, launched on December 30, 2021 on Twitter, did not go unnoticed. In his tweet, Todd Kramer, the owner of a New York art gallery, talked about his collection of NFTs. in particular of his Bored Apes Yacht Club, the coveted and very expensive tokens.

In several messages, now deleted, the gallery owner asked for help from the crypto community, but above all from OpenSea, one of the most important NFT sales platforms and on which many Bored Apes Yacht Clubs are traded. And OpenSea responded by blocking the sale.

NFT (for non-fungible token in English, non-exchangeable tokens in French) have revolutionized the art market in just a few months. These “tokens” make it possible to register types of property deeds in the blockchain, and therefore to authenticate “unique” web files. It is this technology that has made it possible to create an unprecedented virtual art market, which broke all records in 2021 and which is attracting greed.

The Bored Apes Yacht Club for sale on OpenSea // Source: OpenSea

NFT sales platforms are not decentralized

The NFT collection of the Bores Apes Yacht Club is one of the most popular: the monkeys that are represented on the tokens are selling like hot cakes at gold prices. Todd Kramer, who took to Twitter to tell the story of him, explained that the 16 NFTs he was robbed were worth 615 ETH, or just over $ 2 million. The theft allegedly took place via phishing, after Todd Kramer clicked on a link he believed led to a legitimate site.

After his request for help on Twitter, Todd Kramer would be contacted by OpenSea and the platform would have frozen all sales of the affected “Monkeys”. ” Refresh … All the monkeys are frozen. I am waiting for news from the OpenSea teams. I learned my lesson well. […] I didn’t realize there were so many trolls […] can be seen on Decrypt, who was able to screenshot the tweets before they were deleted by Todd Kramer.

Since then, NFTs still appear on OpenSea, but they are no longer available for sale and even carry a notice, stating that they have been blocked because ” suspicious activity “.

The OpenSea page of one of the stolen NFTs // Source: OpenSea

A decentralized system, but an essential platform?

While the story may seem anecdotal (aside from the millions lost), it has nonetheless sparked an important debate within the crypto community on Twitter: A centralized entity, such as OpenSea, truly has the right to impose its rules on the decentralized world of NFT?

Under Todd Kramer’s now deleted tweets, many people disagreed with OpenSea’s method. ” It feels really anti-crypto to me to ask third parties to do this, and ideally they shouldn’t be able to. He stressed a Twitter user. ” In a true decentralized property system, no one should be able to interfere. ”

Many people seem to share this opinion. On the social network, amidst mockery and suspicions of “false thefts”, the story has revived an old debate: can there really be a decentralized system on the Internet, which is dominated by large platforms, and which therefore reproduces the mechanisms of a centralized system? For now, there is no answer to this question, although some believe that moving to Web3, a decentralized Internet, could solve these problems.

Some rightly argue that NFTs can still be traded on other platforms, not just OpenSea. In fact, the platform is not the only one to allow the purchase and sale of NFTs. But it is undoubtedly one of the best known and most used, and its decision to act by blocking transactions inevitably calls into question part of the ideology of decentralization linked to the blockchain.

The news of Todd Kramer’s NFT freeze is all the more bad because, in the past, some sales platforms have not protected victims of theft. In March 2021, several users of the NFT sales site Nifty Gateway suffered the theft of their NFTs and the platform had not taken special measures to prevent their sale. And a few days before NFT was stolen by Todd Kramer, another Twitter user he had lamented a similar fate – without the platform doing anything.

The debate on the responsibility of platforms in the era of decentralization has only just begun.

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