With Donald Trump blocked from Twitter, a group of high school and college students from Orange County is determined to make sure the former president’s 46,594 tweets are not forgotten.
The students are selling digital art of Trump’s archived tweets as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which are online collectibles secured by cryptocurrency.
Here’s the twist: The group is donating any profits to tweet-oriented causes that, according to the progressive-leaning students, “Trump would hate.”
For example: The sale of art connected to Trump’s Nov. 7 tweet, “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!,” will generate a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for expanded voting rights. Trump’s May 29 tweet “CHINA!” will send money to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. There’s an “OBAMAGATE” tweet that supports Black Lives Matter, a “fake news” post that sends money to the American Journalism Project, and a tweet slamming windmills that supports the Climate Emergency Fund.
Since launching the project in late April, the students have raised more than $12,000 for a wide range of causes they believe in.
“The idea is to take the negativity behind some of the messages in the tweets and kind of recycle that into a positive effect,” said Pirooz Romouzi, 19, communications director for Strategic Meme Group, the three-week-old “social good company” that’s behind the project.
Romouzi, who grew up in Laguna Beach and Irvine, became friends with Strategic Meme Group co-founder, Jackie Ni, while both attended Sage Hill School in Newport Beach.
After Ni learned about political action committees during an AP government class, he and friends Jason Yu and Theodore Horn in July first launched a youth-focused super PAC called MemePAC, where they use social media to share memes and games opposing Trump’s 2020 campaign and encouraging young people to vote. MemePAC went viral on TikTok, with more than 5 million likes and nearly 400,000 followers.
Politically, they have a bit of fun at President Joe Biden’s expense, with a clear preference for Bernie Sanders, but most of their efforts are focused on mocking Trump and generally promoting political engagement.
After the success of their first effort, Ni, Yu and Horn were looking for a new project. So the teens, who have an interest in computer science, formed Strategic Meme Group. There are now eight team members ranging in age from 18 to 20 and their first effort is selling Trump’s tweets for charity.
The idea of selling nonfungible tokens, such as digital artwork or collectibles, for cryptocurrency is new but exploding.
In March, an NFT by crypto artist Beeple got $69.3 million when sold through Christie’s auction house. That same month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million. That gave Ni, Yu and Horn an idea.
They did not get Trump’s signoff on their plan to sell his tweets. But they argue the tweets became public domain when Trump became president. And since NFTs are so new, there isn’t a lot of regulation to say if they’re right or wrong.
Technically, Trump’s words are only part of the product being sold. A screenshot of each tweet is pasted on top of stylized, often unflattering images of Trump, such as one depicting the former president’s hair blowing in the wind or another of Trump using two hands to drink a bottle of water.
“I think we’re kind of playing a foundational role in NFTs and digital art,” said Romouzi, who’s a freshman at Chapman University majoring in business administration.
They call the digital art Drumpfs. The name was inspired by a February 2016 episode of John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” where Oliver shared that Drumpf was the Trump family’s ancestral name.
Drumpfs are listed in four categories: “for sale,” “infamous,” “deleted” and “flagged.” Buyers also can search for key words, sort by time period or filter for criteria like “highest retweets.”
When someone buys a Drumpf, they get an email with the digital art. Ownership of that unique Drumpf also is transferred to the buyer on the blockchain (the system that backs up the currency) and they can later resell the collectible if there’s a market for it.
Strategic Meme Group gets paid using the cryptocurrency Ethereum, which is second only to Bitcoin in terms of market share. They’ll convert that Ethereum to dollars each time they get around $10,000 and donate those funds to the chosen charity.
Trump tweets that don’t target certain groups are designated to the company’s “general fund.” The team is creating a voting system so people can choose which charities will get funds.
Most of the tweets are selling for 0.00232 ether, which are Ethereum’s digital coins. (Trump got 232 electoral college votes in November, to Biden’s 306.) That equated to 79 cents per Drumpf based on Monday’s Ethereum value.
The students also handpicked 100 tweets they believe to be “of incredible historical (and comedic) importance” and designated them as “infamous.” Those tweets by the 45th president cost 0.45 ether, or $1,532 as of Monday. Examples include “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” and “SPACE FORCE. VOTE!” None of those high-priced Drumpfs have sold yet.
The value of Ethereum dipped over the past week, after Elon Musk said his car and energy company Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment due to environmental concerns with cryptocurrency, noting that a lot of electricity is needed to support Bitcoin and similar systems. The Strategic Meme Group team offsets that by buying carbon credits through companies such as NativeEnergy and TerraPass. To date, they’ve offset more than 5 tons of carbon.
The teens, who’ve donated more than 1,000 hours of work to their project, have another concept in the works, but Romouzi said they’re not ready to talk about it.
“Let’s just say things are coming,” he said with a chuckle.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing where we can take this and how many people we can impact.”