As non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become more popular in the cryptocurrency space, this popularity has similarly spilled over into mainstream social media. While this has generally been unofficial and driven by users, recently Twitter enabled a feature to set an NFT as a user’s profile picture.
Twitter’s implementation is no longer as simple as just uploading a JPEG of the NFT as your profile picture. It requires connecting to a wallet showing that you own the NFT, and encompasses your profile picture in a “soft hexagon”. When another user clicks on your profile picture, they are then shown the details of your NFT. Reddit is also not far behind on an implementation of NFT profile pictures.
This feature might seem futile to many, however it aims to address the proof of ownership problem. When users are simply uploading a JPEG as their profile picture, anyone can save that picture from the internet and upload it as their own – there is no verification.
However, there’s already a workaround in this logic that has dedicated crypto fans up in arms. Users can still screenshot or save any NFT profile picture, mint it as their own, then upload the picture as an NFT since they now own it. Sure, they may not have the original, but after uploading it themselves they can make the identifiable data as similar to the original as possible. While the minting process used to be a barrier to entry, it is now simple and inexpensive enough that anyone with some technology knowledge could get by.
A proposed solution to this is to only allow verified NFT collections to be uploaded as profile pictures. However, this only isolates and divides the community more since most verified collections are also the most expensive. The existing program also only allows NFT verification from a few crypto wallets, which further centralizes an industry with the primary goal of decentralization. It seems that any solution to verifying original ownership creates more vulnerability to decentralization, and vice versa.
While it is reasonable for mainstream social media to adopt new technologies, adapting to their user base and new popularities, they must be careful to not exacerbate problems for their own gain. Among NFTs, it is difficult to tend the goals of decentralization and proof of originality in an effective way such that all participants are content, but these scales must be balanced for effective integration.