In the world of Web 3 influencer marketing, there are ongoing discussions about the roles and responsibilities of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) or influencers. To shed light on these discussions, an informal debate titled The Limits of DYOR: A Debate on Web3 Influencers & Promotions was organized on Twitter. The Twitter Space took place on June 10, 2023, at 07:00 pm PHT and focused on the theme of The Role and Responsibilities of KOLs in the Web3 Community.
The debaters in this event were Em “Kaisaya” Dangla of Suzuverse Philippines and Metasports.gg; Marvin Favis of House of Crypto; Luis Buenaventura, the YGG Country Manager; MJ Aguilar, a Web 3 KOL; and Ethan Rose, the CEO of Pouch.ph. The moderators and hosts for this event are none other than Jiro Reyes, the CEO of Bitskwela and JC Macalintal, the CMO of Bitskwela.
The debate format was designed to ensure fairness, provide each debater with ample time to explain their position, and facilitate a productive exchange of ideas.
The discussion kicked off with this statement:
Bullish: Marvin Favis
Marvin defended the bullish position by stating that although KOLs are not currently protected legally, they say “Not Financial Advice” because they want some level of protection as well.
Ethan Rose joined the bullish camp, explaining that KOLs should have some level of protection since KOLs wouldn’t necessarily be aware that the project they are promoting may turn into a scam. MJ Aguilar added that KOLs who are starting out wouldn’t be able to distinguish between good and bad projects and a lack of protective measures for KOLs would discourage innovation.
Bearish: Luis Buenaventura
Luis explained that he is bearish because, similar to journalists, KOLs should be accountable as part of checks and balances in society.
Em Dangla joined the bearish camp, asserting that followers should do their own due diligence.
Highlights of the open discussion included Luis’ rebuttal to Marvin that the legal system exists as a system of discovering truth. While Marvin respected Luis’ opinion, he countered that with no control over what happens in the future, there must still be some protection for influencers.
80% Bullish / 20% Bearish
Bullish: Luis Buenaventura
Luis explained that he is bullish because responsible journalism requires journalists to disclose if they own stocks in the companies they write about. These rules are in place to be fair to the public.
Em joined Luis in the bullish stance, stating that KOLs should be responsible and allow followers to make informed decisions.
Bearish: Marvin Favis
Marvin defended the bullish position, stating that KOLs can disclose interests, but they should not be required to. He elaborated that this should be treated on a case-to-case basis since there are fine lines that are not to be crossed even when claiming not to give financial advice.
On the other hand, Ethan Rose held a neutral stance explaining that if one is placing a marketing billboard and promoting something, one cannot sue the billboard. Thus, the question arises: “Should influencers be treated as billboards where they can promote, or as journalists?
Highlights of the open discussion included Luis’ rebuttal stating that it will be better in general if influencers disclose their financial positions. He added that being open and transparent is the better position than bullish or bearish and that a law requiring public disclosure is not necessary. Marvin suggested that disclaimers used by KOLs have to be complete and the purpose of the content must be clear. Meanwhile, Ethan declared he was bearish on this statement since it means that the government will be violating people's privacy and freedom of speech.
70% Bullish / 30% Bearish
As part of the bullish camp, Em discussed how a regulatory committee would be a way to protect the community and establish trust and credibility within the whole crypto ecosystem.
On the other hand, Ethan was strongly bearish. He said that there are too many regulatory committees and that they would eventually be useless in determining whether a project is legitimate or risky, to which Marvin concurred. Additionally, MJ suggested that rather than relying solely on regulatory committees, the focus should be on education and financial literacy.
Luis chose to stay neutral on this statement, explaining that a regulatory body already exists - the SEC. However, the problem is their lack of understanding of cryptocurrencies.
Highlights of the open discussion included Em predicting that there will be trust in the whole ecosystem once this regulatory committee already includes people who are already into cryptocurrencies. To which MJ agreed, but questioned who these people should be.
63% Bullish / 37% Bearish
Em compared KOLs who chose not to disclose their personal investments in a project to a cigarette company selling cigarettes but also declaring that they never told you to smoke them. Em personally prefers to be transparent regarding her alignment with a product.
As a business owner in the Philippines, Ethan expressed his reservations with granting KOLs ownership of a project. A better option would be to pay the influencer a fee to promote a product rather than immediately give them the company’s tokens.
Luis maintained that the best default position is openness and transparency.
Highlights of the open discussion included MJ stating he was bearish since personal investments do not guarantee expertise and having a financial stake doesn't mean that the influencer has the necessary knowledge. Luis reminded the group to think about what’s best for the community, and stated that he has tokens in the projects he creates content for as an act of transparency.
50% Bullish / 50% Bearish
Marvin opened his bullish position by stating that this law will act as a death penalty for them as KOLs. It makes them more cautious of what they are promoting, deters malicious influencers, and protects the community.
MJ believes such a law will harm the space and that investors should take responsibility for their own investments.
Luis stated that there are already laws from the SEC that fine influencers for promoting fraudulent projects, but they are not directed to KOLs since it is hard to define what a KOL is. Em, MJ, and Marvin all concurred that education has to be first before we consider laws.
86% Bullish / 14% Bearish
Luis defined fraudulent projects as scams and ponzi schemes, and stated that for the community's sake, KOLs should be called out for promoting these. He also hailed Jose Rizal as the first KOL in the Philippines because Rizal called out the Spaniards and as a result the country is now free.
MJ took the bearish side, claiming that at this stage in the industry, we are all still beginners. Both Marvin and Em echoed the bearish stance by saying that the KOL in fault must be confronted in private before calling them out in public in order not to hinder collaborations within the industry.
Highlights of the open discussion included MJ, Em and Marvin advocating for private confrontation before public callouts to avoid the risk of defamation. Meanwhile, Luis argued that KOLs are open to public criticism and cannot avoid being called out. This helps them realize their mistakes and learn how to apologize to the community.
92% Bullish / 8% Bearish
For the remaining time, the stage was open to the audience to ask the debaters any questions they may have. Here are some of the audience’s questions and the debaters’ responses:
Luis responded that this is a tricky problem because in crypto, our belief system is intertwined with our wallets. There must be a way to separate the review and that is where journalistic ethics may come in.
MJ and Marvin replied that they are open to being transparent with paid advertisements. Luis added that his general rule is that he does not accept money from sponsors. If a project wants him to write about them, he will give an honest review. He believes that while the amount need not be disclosed when there is a conflict of interest, the community must at least know whether or not the influencer promoting the project has a stake in the project.
MJ shared that he made a lot of mistakes in his early days and admitted that KOLs should improve and learn from their experiences. Em responded that if she does not like the project she will not accept payments from them because she values her reputation in the gaming and Web 3 industry. Lastly, Luis emphasized the importance of humility, saying that KOLs must remember that they are still learning, and they should be able to admit that to their community. It’s impossible to be in crypto and not make a mistake.
The Limits of DYOR debate encapsulated the issues surrounding the roles and responsibilities of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in the Web3 community. Throughout the event, debaters held different viewpoints, with each offering their perspectives on these contentious issues.
For the most part, the audience were divided in their opinion about each topic. Although there appears to be no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges faced by KOLs and influencers in the Web3 community, the debaters found common ground in the shared mission of fostering a healthy Web 3 ecosystem for everyone's benefit. The importance of openness, transparency, responsibility, education, and collaboration in the crypto community was the call to action all of them appealed for.
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