Was this the PR hoax of the decade? Reporters and crypto traders are both a little red-faced today after running with the supposed news that Walmart would begin accepting litecoin as a new form of payment. The source seemed legit: An announcement posted on GlobeNewswire, a service for press release distribution. It spawned immediate stories in major outlets like CNBC, Reuters, and even the digital currency news site Coindesk, which took the announcement at face value. Litecoin’s own verified account then retweeted the report. What was up? How did that happen?
The news release arguably had a few tells if you looked closely. It was the only one Walmart had ever released through GlobeNewswire. Another was probably the write-up itself. It’s only six paragraphs, but two are spent giving lots of the reasons why litecoin is superior to bitcoin:
Why Litecoin? Released in 2011, Litecoin is one of the oldest digital currencies in the crypto ecosystem. Litecoin (LTC) is similar to Bitcoin (BTC), in that it uses the same code as the latter, and shares many similarities. However, Litecoin is cheaper and faster than Bitcoin. Litecoin is also a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that facilitates cross-border transactions and enhances digital payment systems. Like Bitcoin, Litecoin has no central authority.
Litecoin was designed to be used for cheaper transactions, and to be more efficient for everyday use. While Litecoin requires more sophisticated technology to mine than Bitcoin, blocks are actually generated up to four times faster. Litecoin also processes financial transactions a lot quicker.
At the bottom, it also listed a domain for Walmart corporate email addresses that didn’t work (@walmart-corp.com).
Litecoin retweeting the news also set off a separate wave of speculation—did its social media manager just think they’d gotten left in the dark? Did they retweet the news as a gag? Was this tied to a more nefarious pump-and-dump scheme? Was litecoin’s Twitter account hacked? The price of litecoin jumped by hundreds of dollars on the news, before GlobeNewswire and litecoin both deleted their page and tweet.
Meanwhile, Walmart confirmed with CNBC that the press release wasn’t real. It also says it’s in touch with GlobeNewswire to understand how the fake press release slipped through the cracks.
The SEC didn’t immediately respond when asked if it would be investigating the situation, and Fast Company also reached out to GlobeNewswire to ask what safeguards are in place to vet press releases, especially ones that claim to be from multibillion-dollar companies. We’ll update this post if we hear back.