Disaster relief or marketing ploy? Binance airdrops BNB to users in Morocco and Libya

Troubled crypto exchange Binance has pledged to airdrop up to $3 million worth of its BNB token to users affected by the earthquake in Morocco and up to $500,000 in BNB to those living in areas impacted by the floods in Libya — but some aid experts say that it screams marketing ploy rather than genuine disaster relief.

In two separate press releases, Binance pledged to airdrop $100 worth of BNB to those who have already completed proof of address (POA) checks in Libya and Morocco. Only Binance users identified as living in areas affected by the natural disasters will be eligible — those who provide POA afterwards will receive $25 in BNB, and all active users will be airdropped $10 in the native token.

According to Binance, this POA method “has its limitations and inaccuracies,” however it’s “the best method we have available to us to locate potentially impacted users.” The crypto exchange, currently embroiled in regulatory probes across the globe, has pledged up to $500,000 to 13,000 users in Libya. Up to $3 million has been committed to 70,000 users in Morocco.

However, the number of those affected by the crises pales in comparison to the number of people who will be provided aid by Binance.

  • Over 2,800 people have died from the earthquake in Morocco and 300,000 people have been affected.
  • The floods in Libya have killed a staggering 11,300 people and has affected 900,000 so far.
  • Death tolls and the number of those affected by both disasters are expected to rise.

In addition to the BNB airdrops, Binance Charity has opened a public donation address. Donated funds will be forwarded to a charity that has yet to be named.

Airdropping thoughts, prayers, and BNB

Aid experts have taken aim at Binance for only helping its own users, rather than all those affected. And the decision to airdrop its native token rather than practical aid has also come under fire.

“What people want is food, shelter, medical aid and space to grieve,” Iain Overton, executive director of charity Action on Armed Violence, told the FT. “They’re not looking for crypto.

According to a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, aid needs to come in a form that can “help [people] meet their basic needs immediately.”

“If it is crypto, do they see that this is something that can help? If I don’t have food and I am in the middle of an earthquake, is crypto going to get me food and clean water right now? That’s what I need,” she said.

Read more: Does Binance chief CZ need the price of BNB to stay above $200?

Binance has defended its decision in its press releases by saying that crypto can provide “fast, low-cost, borderless, and transparent transactions.” As needed, they can also be changed into local fiat currencies — and therefore crypto transfers are a legitimate way to deliver urgent financial aid.

Only, as pointed out by several aid experts, converting crypto into cash is unnecessarily difficult in times of need — and the inherent price volatility can expose disaster victims to unnecessary risk.

“I get that they’re trying to do a good thing, but ultimately it [appears to be] a bit of a PR stunt,” a manager at a major aid agency told the FT.

Will airdropped BNB even reach the right people?

If there’s one crypto exchange currently in need of good press, it’s Binance. The global firm faces lawsuits by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the US, as well as a Department of Justice probe that could end in fraud charges.

The firm has been pushed out of the Netherlands and Germany and is under investigation in France and Australia. The EU and the US are reportedly working together to investigate Binance.

Meanwhile, Binance’s top executives across the globe are jumping ship en masse.

This is also not the first time that Binance has come under fire for publicity stunts masked as goodwill. In 2021, Binance was sued by the Malta Community Chest Foundation (MCCFF), a charity led by Maltese president George Vella. MCCFF claimed it never received over $9 million in crypto (mostly BNB) that Binance promised to terminally ill cancer patients back in 2017. Repeated reminders went unanswered, the foundation claimed.

Read more: Binance US chief the latest exec to leave amid regulatory troubles

In the firm’s statement, Binance chief Changpeng Zhao (CZ) said he hoped to “bring some relief to those affected” by airdropping BNB to disaster victims in Morocco. He encouraged airdrop receivers who weren’t impacted by the earthquake to “pass the funds on to those most in need” — suggesting that there’s absolutely no guarantee that airdropped BNB is actually reaching the right people.

“Those affected by the catastrophe will never hear of it, and those unaffected by the catastrophe may come away with a positive notion of [Binance’s] brand. It’s cynical at best,” Overton added.

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