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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest VCs are backing a buzzy new project—and Crypto Twitter is up in arms about it.

Why it matters: BitClout has divided even the industry's top investors, with some openly backing it in hopes it's the next social-media-on-the-blockchain success, while others are staying far away.

  • The cap table includes some of the biggest names like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase Ventures, Winklevoss Capital and a host of celebrities.
  • Still, some are very wary. You can currently put bitcoin into the site but you can’t withdraw it. The project's lead founder says his well-connected backers might help exchange listings materialize soon.

How it works: BitClout takes the profiles of popular Twitter personalities and ascribes a dollar value to their output. Participants can then buy and sell various “Creator Coins” with bitcoin (and ideally profit).

  • At the top of the pack is Elon Musk, whose unclaimed profile on the site is commanding $70,825 per token. A run-of-the-mill crypto influencer is fetching around $500. (Chamath Palihapitiya, who briefly flirted with running for California’s governorship, appears to be the priciest claimed account at $42,820 per token.)

Yes, but: No one gave permission for their Twitter brands to be monetized.

  • While BitClout's pseudonymous founder, Diamondhands, told CoinDesk’s Brady Dale that the site “creates innovative ways for creators to monetize" and provides "a new business model that’s not ad-driven anymore,” this argument has been unpersuasive to many prominent members of the crypto industry, who are generally salty about their Twitter profiles being scraped (and monetized) without their consent.
  • At least one unhappy technologist whose profile showed up on BitClout without his permission sent the company's alleged real-life leader a cease-and-desist letter on Tuesday. 
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Moreover: While you can currently put bitcoin into the site (about $184 million, according to an unconfirmed blockchain address), you can’t withdraw it, which some skeptics point out as a red flag.

The bottom line: Not needing permission is a tenet of the crypto ecosystem. Centralized parties shouldn’t be able to lord over online commerce. That said, BitClout is rubbing some – whose reputations are now on the market – the wrong way.

Go deeper: What Is BitClout? The Social Media Experiment Sparking Controversy on Twitter (Coindesk)

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 9 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker