The latest big name to jump on the NFT bandwagon is former intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who on Friday auctioned off an original NFT artwork for approximately $5.4 million in the cryptocurrency Ether.
Titled “Stay Free,” it’s a digital self-portrait made from pages of a US Court of Appeals decision that ruled that the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance of phone records violated the law, a practice which Snowden exposed in 2013 by leaking NSA classified ads. secrets to journalists. Snowden’s portrait was originally taken by photographer Platon, who granted permission for his work to be used in this NFT, according to the description of the piece on the Foundation’s online art marketplace.
“It is the only known NFT produced by Snowden,” the Stay Free listing states.
The NFT sold for 2,224 Ether, worth just over $5.4 million at press time. All proceeds from this sale will go to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that develops open source whistleblower tools and works to protect journalists from state-sponsored hackers and government surveillance. Snowden has led the organization as president since 2017.
“I want to extend a very special thank you to everyone who has followed this over the past 24 hours, and deepest gratitude from EVERYONE on our @FreedomofPress to those who bid on our charity event,” Snowden tweeted on Friday. “You help us make a better world. Stay Free!”
Snowden faces several felony charges in the US under the Espionage Act of 1917 for leaking classified information about the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance programs. This included the NSA’s “bulk harvesting” of billions of domestic phone calls and text messages in the US, a practice later ruled unconstitutional in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. To avoid prosecution, Snowden fled to Russia in 2013, where he remains to this day. Russian authorities initially granted him temporary asylum and, since last year, permanent residence.
An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a one-of-a-kind digital item that is minted on the blockchain, ensuring an accurate record of ownership and authenticity. These days, it seems like everyone and their mom have been quick to cash in on the craze with digital collectibles. From gifs to Funko pops to tweets – any pop culture artifact you can think of, you can bet someone is already selling an NFT.