To show their affection for former President Donald J. Trump, the novelty coins are simple, glittering marks of appreciation. They’re also one of the most popular goods on the market right now.
There’s a design to suit every preference, and each one has a photo of Mr. Trump. In other paintings, he is shown in gold, his eyes fixed on something in the distant. Some of the images show him wearing silver, waving a thumbs-up, or even riding a rocket while a Bald Eagle flies behind him. Others show him dressed in black and grinning in silver.
One version stands out among the others, despite the fact that there are many others. The “Trump coin,” as it is often referred as on the internet, has become a favourite of right-wing social media and fringe news websites. It’s sandwiched between accusations of rigged elections and conspiracy theories about worldwide cabals in the advertising. Some advertisements even refer to the coin as a kind of cryptocurrency, implying that it would soon be worth thousands of dollars.
The coin itself shows Mr. Trump’s visage etched in gold on a base of gleaming silver, with the word “Trump” in the centre. His campaign slogan, “Keep America Great,” is printed in an arc over his head in large letters.
This particular version has become somewhat of an online mystery due to its unusual appearance. It is not immediately clear who is promoting or benefitting from it. It’s being offered by a strange news website about which very little information is available. The coin has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Trump. There is no known business claiming credit.
Several internet sleuths have been tracking down digital bread crumbs in order to figure out which groups are driving the coin’s rise in popularity. The New York Times followed a similar approach, monitoring a network of marketers and watching their behaviour across a range of platforms, from public stores to privately operated marketing portals. A global search was conducted with the assistance of industry insiders and marketing veterans, and the results implicated a small number of organisations as well as a large number of anonymous marketers working in uncharted territory.
What became evident was that the currency’s unique beginnings were just the beginning of a disinformation supply chain that depended on lies and misinformation at practically every step of the way, including the minting of the coin. Fake social media accounts that promoted deceptive advertisements, as well as a slew of misleading news websites that preyed on political resentment, were important in the coin’s rise to prominence.
When seen in its whole, the coin highlights something that watchdogs have long recognised: many of the untruths that Americans encounter on the internet are not the work of foreign actors attempting to sow divisiveness. They are merely there to assist someone, somewhere in their quest to earn a fast profit.
Because of Mr. Trump’s win in 2016, the Trump coin depicts how the approach has developed since then. Increasing interest in cryptocurrencies among the right-wing raised the likelihood of marketers saying that the actual Trump coin was also a cryptocurrency. The concept gained popularity among customers who already assumed that Mr. Trump was developing his own coin at the time of publication.
However, although the collector novelty item may seem innocuous, experts warn that is part of the problem since the desire for profit may generate new incentives to propagate misinformation online, which is easy to underestimate.
In the words of Danny Rogers, a co-founder and executive director of the Global Disinformation Index, “you make it tiny enough and innocent enough that no one can protest to the particular grift.” “However, viewed as a whole, you’ve created a movement.”
Mr. Washington’s representative claimed he was unavailable for comment, although he did confirm that the account in question was fictitious. When contacted for comment, Ms. Greene did not return calls.
Some Trump fans were won over by the notion that tangible trinkets might gain in value in the same way that Bitcoin had, maybe influenced by stories of crypto-millionaires or the prospect that Mr. Trump would declare it legal money in the future. Even while the Trumpcoin cryptocurrency exists in the real world, it has no relationship to the actual coins. (Mr. Trump’s son Eric has vowed to sue the individuals who created the Trumpcoin cryptocurrency in the previous few days.)
One customer who seemed to have been mislead about the Trump coin was a Telegram user by the name of TheBlueOx, who claimed to have purchased more than $500 worth of genuine Trump coins in the expectation that they would one day be swapped for Trump’s official cryptocurrency.