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It’s no secret that some media outlets and journalists have a grudge against the decentralized cryptocurrencies. The main reason for this is that some media outlets favor and benefit from the centralized system. Sometimes, they are even paid to write ill about cryptocurrencies just to hinder their widespread popularity.
As any news about cryptocurrencies tends to be widely popular amongst the readers, and some of the media sources write about these digital assets without even researching about the topic very well.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal published an article which accused ShapeShit.io of facilitating money laundering. However, the proof that they came up with to support their claim hardly made any sense. In this article, we will have a look at the misleading data presented by WSJ to support their claim based on CipherBlade’s research and analysis of the case.
The Doubts about the investigation methods used
After the article was published on the WSJ, the article became very popular within a few hours. The issue regarding money laundering was surely harming the reputation of ShapeShift.io. In order to prevent any further spread of the hatred, Shapeshift hired CipherBlade in order to investigate the ineffective methods used by The WSJ. Here is what CipherBlade’s investigation proved and showed.
1- The Questions regarding WSJ’s software and their understanding of ShapeShift:
In the article published by the WSJ, they reported that, with the help of Elliptic, they had created software that would help in the investigation. However, there were no reports on the Elliptic’s media page about their work with the WSJ. This certainly raises questions about their involvement in this investigation.
Additionally, the article also mentioned the WSJ having to download suspicious transactions from blockchain.info and etherscan.io which are the popular transaction viewing tools for Bitcoin and Ethereum respectively. However, if they had already created software to track transactions, there was no need for them to download anything from these tools.
The article also mentioned the usage of ShapeShift’s API to view the last 50 transactions on the platform. However, this would only reveal the amount being transacted and not the individual addresses. This means that the WSJ had to track every transaction by comparing the amount that has been transacted.
This is not only inefficient but also results in a lot of copious errors.
This just goes on to question the limited understanding about cryptocurrencies by the WSJ reporters who released an ill-written article without any clear understanding by themselves.
2- The misleading data provided by the WSJ:
In the report released by the WSJ, they claim that about $9 million worth of cryptocurrencies are unaccounted for and are most closely related to money laundering. However, the data provided to back this claim hardly makes any sense. The WSJ reported having evaluated over 12 million crypto transactions on the SHapeShift platform, out of which there were about 5,749 unexplained BTC-ETH pairs.
In the spreadsheet that was shared with ShapeShift.io, out of the 5,749 pairs, 5,730 addresses were actually ShapeShift.io’s deposit addresses. Only 5,523 addresses that were shared resulted in an actual trade. So, this leads to having only 150-173 suspicious addresses.
As released by the WSJ, the transactions under question were converted into Monero which is a privacy-oriented coin and cannot be tracked.
However, on analyzing the statistics of ShapeShift.io, it is clear that only 30% of BTC and 5% of ETH were actually sent to privacy oriented Monero addresses. A majority of this was a direct result of the Starscape scam. The other privacy cryptocurrency Zcash saw less than a percent of the transactions go into such addresses. When all this is taken into account, The WSJ’s $9 million number hardly makes any sense.
Money laundering is a serious issue in the world we live in. With cryptocurrencies privacy features, it has definitely become easy to launder money for illegal purposes. However, this alone should not be the premise for targeting companies such as ShapeShift. From the forensic results above, it is clear that the claims of the WSJ about ShapeShift are misleading and factually incorrect.
Such investigations are necessary to put an end to money laundering. However, it is up to the publishers to make sure that these articles are carefully examined before they are actually published. CipherBlade’s research failed to replicate the results produced by the WSJ even remotely. Thus, disproving the entire claim by the WSJ.