- Yuga Labs’ social media head resigned due to the discovery of racist and antisemitic tweets, adding to previous claims of discrimination within the company
- Shpend Salihu, also known as NGBxShpend on X, left the company on Sunday after old tweets from as far back as 2016 resurfaced
- Yuga Labs had faced prior scrutiny, including from Anonymous, for alleged use of Nazi and racist symbolism in its imagery
Yuga Labs’ social media head has quit after numerous racist and antisemitic tweets emerged, stoking extant allegations that the NFT project has discriminatory overtones. Shpend Salihu, known as NGBxShpend on X (formerly Twitter). Salihu quit on Sunday after tweets dating back to 2016 were unearthed, with the former Yuga Labs employee saying how he hadn’t deleted them because doing so would have made him look worse and that he was a different person now. Yuga Labs has attracted attention in the past, most notably from hacking group Anonymous, over its alleged use of Nazism and racist ‘dog whistles’ in its imagery.
Salihu Owns Up
The controversy began on Saturday when Twitter user @ProfLeoETH uncovered an unsavory tweet regarding Hitler:
— Prof. Leo (@ProfLeoETH) November 4, 2023
This led to more antisemitic tweets and the like, leading to Salihu taking action on Sunday night when it became clear the space wasn’t going to wash over it:
Hey everyone, tough day today. I am stepping down from my position at Yuga Labs. Some tweets have resurfaced from my past and it’s become a distraction from the Club and what we’re all about. These tweets do not reflect who I am or what I believe in. It has been an amazing…
— ngbshpend.eth (@NGBxShpend) November 5, 2023
In the tweet and replies, Salihu said that the tweets “do not reflect who I am or what I believe in” and that “not deleting was a decision as whatever is posted can never really be deleted and always scapped…saying that to say I know I posted those thigns and the day would come that I would need to own up to them and deleting would make it look like I was hiding.”
This comment caused its own debate, with some saying it was fine to delete posts if they no longer aligned with his outlook, adding that he was hardly a high-profile person so no one was likely to dig through deleted posts from eight years ago. Others, however, agreed that if they did emerge as deleted tweets down the line it would look worse than owning up today.
Bad News for Yuga Labs
What’s worse for Yuga Labs is that the kind of things that Salihu was saying reflect accusations leveled at the Bored Ape Yacht Club series; Yuga Labs and its co-founders have been accused of incorporating antisemitic and racist imagery into the imagery within the project.
The company has vehemently denied these claims, but this didn’t stop hacking group Anonymous from taking it upon itself to release a video on YouTube last August in which it accused Yuga Labs of embedding Nazi symbolism and ‘dog whistles’ in the Bored Ape designs by artist Tyler Hobbs.
Anonymous raised concerns about the presence of Nazism, racism, and even pedophilia symbolism within the components of the NFTs, calling for a public evaluation of these allegations and stating that its members would conduct research into the matter and share their findings with the public, rather than taking any direct action against Yuga Labs, allowing the public to form their own opinions on the controversy.
To date, Anonymous has not referenced its Yuga Labs investigation since this tweet, suggesting that it came to nothing.