Dec 11, 2023 - Business

Crypto's accidental journalist: Tiffany Fong plans to keep saying whatever she wants

Photo illustration of Tiffany Fong with a pattern of coins with play buttons cut out of them.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Tiffany Fong

Tiffany Fong has been called many things in crypto — investor, influencer, whistleblower, content creator, even journalist — and she intends to continue saying "whatever the f*** I want."

Why it matters: People in crypto trust Fong, who has emerged as a central character in two of the industry's biggest scandals, Celsius and FTX, for being there to tell the story of their downfall.

  • Fong regularly tells her fans that she is just a "dumb b****," but her following — 43,000 deep on YouTube, 98,000+ on X — would show she's anything but that.
  • She was referred to as a journalist by the U.S. Department of Justice in a court document in Sam Bankman Fried's criminal fraud trial. That prompted Fong to give the agency a shoutout in one of her videos for doing better than the New York Post, which had referred to her as a "sexy crypto influencer."

Zoom out: Regardless of what Fong is — she's remarked that she's never held a real job — crypto remains enthralled.

  • Fong's story started with the collapse of Celsius, after a personal rant went viral.
  • "I literally only started posting about crypto last year because I lost so much money on Celsius," she tells Axios about her rise to influencer status. "Before, I had maybe 200 followers."

Details: Her losses included 3.1 bitcoin and 11.6 ether, all in all some $200,000 when she deposited those assets, Fong says.

  • "I was deeply depressed when Celsius went down, so I started posting as an outlet to vent about how angry I was. I had no expectation of developing a following. It just snowballed."

Snowball, it did. Celsius employees started sending Fong documents and audio from closed-door meetings.

Getting to know SBF

What drew Sam Bankman-Fried to Fong, she isn't exactly sure. Fong guesses it's because people think she's "cool." That's what they told her. Or maybe it's because she says "unhinged" things, though she says that also tends to inspire her critics.

  • She got close enough to the convicted fraudster that she said she'd describe him as a friend, per an interview with the Unchained podcast.

Yes, but: Fong's feelings about SBF are complicated:

  • "The SBF saga took up my entire life for an entire year," Fong tells Axios. "I was interviewing Sam so much over his house arrest. I got to know him — and now for it to all be over and that he's probably going to be in prison for a very long time, it's a little bit emotional for me."
  • "I have not spoken to him, and I don't know if he's upset with me because I wasn't necessarily vouching for his innocence during the trial."

The intrigue: When asked whether she considered SBF and the various crypto leaders "bad" people, Fong said:

  • "I don't think of someone as bad just because they broke laws. I personally don't consider myself the most rule-abiding citizen."
  • "In high school, I sold drugs. I don't know if you want that in your story," she said with a laugh.
  • "When I think about whether someone is a good or bad person I factor in what I think their intentions were, whether they intended to hurt people."

The bottom line: In some ways, Fong's moral compass aligns with that of the industry the industry she covers, or influences. But she's never been a "crypto evangelist," she says, and will never shill coins.

  • "I want to continue to be able to say whatever the f*** I want, even if I'm not making a bunch of money," Fong said.
  • "That's the only reason I have a following, because I do say whatever I want."

Go deeper: How Sam Bankman-Fried and other crypto heroes went to zero

Go deeper