How An Alleged Rapist And Former Twitch Streamer Helped Build An NFT Startup By Hiding Behind A Pseudonym
Thanks to cryptocurrency’s culture of anonymity, streamer MethodJosh was able to conceal his history of alleged sexual abuse. He has now been pushed out of NFT startup Gem.
A popular British Twitch streamer previously accused of sexual abuse has been building an NFT marketplace under a different name that concealed his troubling history.
Startup Gem.xyz recently removed a core developer, who was known to Gem’s staff as Neso and is one of the startup’s primary shareholders, after investigating claims of “sexual misconduct.” BuzzFeed News has confirmed the individual is Josh Thompson, the same World of Warcraft streamer who used the handles Joshpriest and MethodJosh and was accused by several women of rape, sexual harassment, and the grooming of minors in 2020.
On Saturday, Gem cofounder Lorens Huculak announced in a Discord post that “a member of the team, Neso, has engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct” and was terminated after a review of unknown claims. CoinDesk first reported on Tuesday that the “anonymous developer” Neso had been ousted from Gem, which has received funding from investment firms Dragonfly Capital and Sfermion.
“As you may know, our company is fully remote, and Neso was an anonymous developer. As such, this was the first we’d learned of allegations of any kind about this individual,” Huculak wrote. Huculak declined to comment further on Thompson’s departure.
A courier handed Thompson a request for comment from BuzzFeed News at the address listed next to his name on Gem’s business documents. BuzzFeed News also attempted to reach him via an email address tied to an Ethereum Name Service domain that appears to belong to Neso. He did not respond to our request for comment. Dragonfly Capital and Sfermion did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2020, Thompson was accused by at least five women and girls in the gaming community of using his status as a popular Twitch streamer to manipulate them. Victims claimed he made sexual advances toward them when they were 13 and 14 years old. One streamer wrote at the time that she reported Thompson to the police for claims of rape and sexual abuse. (In 2019, Kotaku reported that he had sexually harassed women on Snapchat and Discord.)
In June 2020, in the wake of these testimonies, Thompson was removed from Method, a World of Warcraft guild and esports organization where he was a player. Prior to that, he was permabanned by streaming platform Twitch, where he had approximately 182,000 followers, because he had violated its community guidelines. A Method spokesperson declined to comment on this story, noting that “all ties were severed” in June 2020.
Gem publicly launched in January 2022, and a company blog post said its team had been working on the project since 2021. Around May 2021, the individual known only as Neso was suddenly added to the roster, a source close to the company who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation told BuzzFeed News. “He seemed relatively normal; that’s why this was so shocking,” the source said, adding that Neso “painted himself as a nice, helpful guy.”
Despite his professional pseudonymity, Thompson is named in a business document filed in Singapore, where Gem was incorporated. The member register lists Huculak, Vaibhav Saini, Carmen Hernandez, Parmesh Jayantibhai Shiroya, and Thompson, who is identified as a citizen of the United Kingdom. He was added to the registry on March 11, 2022, and allotted 16,408 shares — equal to the number of shares held by cofounders Huculak and Saini. Hernandez and Shiroya were added to the document on the same date but have only 388 shares.
Huculak’s Discord announcement stated that Neso’s remote status and pseudonymity meant Gem’s leaders did not know about Thompson’s history and sexual abuse allegations prior to the recent investigation, and he did not elaborate in a request for comment. It’s unclear if Gem’s cofounders performed any due diligence to verify Neso’s identity when bringing him onto the team. BuzzFeed News confirmed Joshpriest’s full name through an employment verification request.
Because the name Josh Thompson was rarely used in connection with Joshpriest or MethodJosh, Gem’s leaders may not have made the connection. Although all of the founders’ names were on the incorporation document, Neso’s real name was never publicly disclosed by the company’s other founding members.
Some of Gem’s core staff also go by pseudonyms or nicknames, a common practice within the NFT space. But Hernandez, who goes by Cmonies, and Saini, who uses the name Vasa, are nevertheless discoverable on Twitter and LinkedIn under their real identities.
Huculak’s Discord announcement refers to Neso as an anonymous developer, but three people with knowledge of Gem operations told BuzzFeed News that he was a cofounder. A now-deleted Twitter account belonging to Neso states only that he was doing “nft stuff” at Gem, and BuzzFeed News was unable to verify his actual title. However, in a January YouTube interview with the blockchain analytics platform Nansen, Neso — who kept his video turned off the entire time — describes Huculak as “one of my cofounders” whom he met in 2021, shortly before joining the Gem team.
No additional details have been publicly provided about Neso’s exit, according to three Gem sources. “After they made the Discord announcement, one of us remembered that he was a professional gamer who played World of Warcraft,” one source said, adding that Neso had tweeted about gaming in the past. Curious about Neso’s identity, these sources searched for World of Warcraft players who’d been accused of sexual harassment and discovered the controversy surrounding the streamer Joshpriest.
Huculak declined to comment on specific questions regarding Thompson’s termination and current status at Gem. It’s unclear if Thompson will be removed as a shareholder. On Tuesday, two days after Thompson’s departure was announced, transaction ledgers show that a crypto wallet that appears to belong to Neso transferred the domain name gemdotxyz.eth to an anonymously held wallet. The domain was originally registered in January by neso.eth, which is linked to Neso’s deleted Twitter account.
That an alleged sexual abuser was able to obscure his identity behind a new moniker exemplifies the harms posed by crypto’s culture of pseudonymity. Even the founders of NFT projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club, which has raised millions of dollars from investors, did not publicly disclose their real names until BuzzFeed News did it for them. Other pseudonymous actors in the NFT space have made off with millions. To prove their trustworthiness, the creators of some NFT ventures are now voluntarily “doxing” themselves, a term the Web3 space has co-opted to mean everything from revealing names to verifying one’s physical identity.
“The craziest thing about all of this,” one Gem source said, is that “he could literally just reinvent himself and come back because he was pseudoanonymous.”●
Katie Notopoulos contributed reporting to this story.