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Doxxing of Bored Ape Yacht Club Founders Exposes Anonymity Issues in Crypto

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A BuzzFeed News report by Katie Notopolous has revealed the identities of “Gordon Goner” and “Gargamel”  – the two pseudonymous founders of Yuga Labs, the company behind the BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) NFT project.

“Gordon Goner” was revealed to be Wylie Aronow, a 35-year-old from Florida, while “Gargamel” is Greg Solano, a 32-year-old writer.

Katie Notopoulos, the BuzzFeed News reporter who authored the piece, initially identified Solano and Aronow by going through publicly available records for Yuga Labs, the company behind the Bored Apes brand. Both Solana and Aronow have since responded by tweeting a picture of themselves on their respective Twitter accounts.

The article was met with fierce backlash from the crypto community, due to concerns over the personal safety of the founders. Prominent crypto influencer @Cobie called Notopolous a “whore for clicks” while Adam Hollander, founder of Microsoft’s Incent Games and self-proclaimed “owner of #BAYC 3987”, claimed that the dox was “downright dangerous” and that Buzzfeed should “apologise and pay for each (Solano and Aronow) to obtain personal security”.

Another BAYC fan directly threatened Notopolous, vowing to “post a bunch of your personal info like you did to bayc founders. Starting with location, place of work, parents home, siblings addresses…Your parents suburbs are not that far away actually”.

However, Notopoulos pointed out in the article that “there are reasons why in the traditional business world, the CEO or founder of a company uses their real name and not a pseudonym.” She continued: “The people behind BAYC are courting investors and running a business that is potentially worth billions…. How do you hold them accountable if you don’t know who they are?”

Some outside and within the crypto community also echoed Notopoulos’s sentiments.

“The backlash isn’t surprising, but it betrays deep ignorance about the function of journalism and an entitled belief that crypto must be covered on its own terms”, wrote Jeff Bercovici, deputy business editor at the Los Angeles Times.

“Are BAYC’s founders powerful? Yes. Wealth is power. That’s why Forbes and Bloomberg publish lists of ultra-wealthy individuals and families. The people on those lists would often rather keep their wealth a secret. Where’s the outcry when they are named?” he added

“It’s just journalism,” wrote Coindesk reporter Will Gottsegen. “Reporting on the rich and powerful shouldn’t be controversial, from an ethics standpoint”.

Last week, one of Wonderland Finance’s co-founder was revealed to be Michael Patryn, a convicted felon who co-founded QuadrigaCX, a Canadian crypto exchange that defrauded investors of more than US$190 million.

However, the crypto community was more concerned about their funds rather than the revelation, which exposes the strange double standards regarding the pseudonymous nature of the cryptocurrency industry – anonymity is only valued when it conveniences everyone.

If BAYC is just a million-dollar art project, then an identity reveal, while unnecessary, is harmless if the founders have nothing to hide, even if it was just for the sake of a story.