Is Steemit a scam?

It’s hard to call it a blatant scam but it’s really a classic pyramid scheme, where the founders and very early adopters are making A LOT of money and the opportunity prospects for everyone else are inflated by perverse financial incentives.

Jonathan Roseland
10 min readJun 2, 2018


When the channel I’d spent 5 years on was unfairly suspended by Youtube (a decision I surprisingly persuaded them to reconsider) I was excited to find Steemit and D.Tube, I thought to myself…

I will be one hell of a brand evangelist for these decentralized social media platforms!

As I purchased some Steem to fund my account to become a model Steemit user, I thought naively…

I work my ass off researching, writing, recording, and producing quality content… Finally, I’ve found a place on the internet that should really appreciate it!

Follow me @JROSELAND on Steemit

But after a few months of using them, I’m pretty disappointed. These two websites really aren’t the decentralized content meritocracies that they purport to be.


I really put a lot of time into crafting a compelling, fun, and informative #introducingyourself article and… It made a grand total of $17 which was later reduced to $12. I also recorded this fun intro video for DTube, which DTube just didn’t seem real interested in…

Watch: Applied Neuroscience Strategist, World Traveler, Thinker & Smart Drug Dealer [BANNED from Youtube]

I’ve posted quite a bit on Steemit; attained a respectable user score of 41, gathered over a hundred followers yet there’s no sign of momentum building in my earnings — they are consistently pitifully small.

Steemit has this very effective yet slightly deceptive way of attracting new users. Articles and videos conspicuously display how much Steem the article has attained in equivalent dollars. Go to the trending section or any of the popular sections and you’ll see dozens of articles that have supposedly made hundreds of dollars. Not knowing better you think… Hey, I could write a better article than this! I could be making like $400 just for writing an article! But actually, the people making the big bucks are gaming the system and reinvesting a lot of their cryptocurrency back into the system to artificially boost their posts — they are NOT actually making the amount of money that appears so conspicuously there underneath their articles. There are some commenting bots that point this out BUT someone new to Steemit has no way of knowing this.

There’s little hope of my best content going viral because the people gaming the system inflate the value so highly of their posts that making it to trending the pages trending pages is impossible. If your strategy is to attract attention organically by creating good content Steemit is not for you.

I’ve interacted in a conversational, none-spammy way with a number of other users on Steemit and yes you can find a lot of genuine human interaction there. Because Steemit looks like such a gold mine to those who don’t know better it’s growing rapidly; refresh the #introducingmyself hourly and you’ll see just how many new users are joining. The people will be quite excited to interact with you BUT keep in mind that by design Steemit is going to have a major problem with the supply and demand of content creators vs content viewers. Everyone is just joining the site to get rich by hopefully one day getting paid $400 for an article that takes 45 minutes to write. The value in Youtube or Medium is that about 90% of users are just casual viewers, they are there to be informed, amused, or educated, they are not there to compete with you. On Steemit this proportion of voyeurs to opportunists is flipped.

Steemit looks to be on course to become a softcore porn distribution platform like Instagram. A lot of the popular Steemians are women posting skanky photos of themselves. As always on the internet, attractive women get a ridiculously disproportional share of the attention, clicks, and upvotes.

Steemit and the Steemians are in a race to the bottom to become a quintessential content farm where the system is just being gamed by the cheaters. I’m mostly interested in health science but if you visit the health or science sections of Steemit you’ll see that the vast majority of trending content is pretty low-quality content that has been artificially inflated…

  • They lack any semblance of proper citations, references, or quotations. This is especially offensive in health and science articles.
  • They are short. Lacking in depth, detail, and nuance.
  • The articles are just lazily and poorly written, likely by an outsourced writer in the Philippines or Bangladesh that makes $3/hour

It’s a shame that these cheaters are ruining the system! I wish I could have found Steemit when it was just about 6 months old, I bet at that time it was actually a meritocracy where good writing got rewarded.

On Steemit you only make money off your content for the first 7 days after publishing. Nearly all of my content is evergreen, it will be helpful and interesting to the people who want to learn about lifehacking and biohacking a month from now, a year from now, or 5 years from now. This significant downside is not explained anywhere really conspicuous on Steemit’s website, I had to learn about it from another Youtuber.

Steemit’s UI is awkward and limited. There are two just options; an HTML editor that looks like it’s from the ’90s and a plain text editor. This means that I’m quite limited in really styling articles to look great — check out my website or my profile and you’ll see that I painstakingly style my articles to look great, Steemit limits the fabulousness of my hypertext language expression!

Steemit is supposed to be like a free speech platform but there’s a flagging function that apparently gets abused a lot. So it’s super susceptible to the same free speech problems that Facebook and Youtube have.

As Brandon Frye vlogs here, Steemit’s system allows for whales, institutional users who have invested a bunch of cryptocurrency to wield a lot of influence on the site — to bully smaller users.

Looking through Steemit’s most popular posts, the content that seems to get the most upvotes and attention is about making money on Steemit. In the ’90s and early 2000’s a lot of the internet was characterized as internet marketers trying to make money by internet marketing internet marketing opportunities for internet marketers — this is what Steemit really seems to be devolving into! I find exceedingly few really great articles about science, technology, or journalism that seem to be organically attracting a lot of eyeballs.

If you do a little bit of research into Steemit you’ll find that the owners and founders who made it are making a ton of money off it. Why aren’t they reinvesting into building a better platform? Or combating abuse?


This Youtube alternative makes a pretty good first impression. Distributing video on a blockchain is an interesting solution to Youtube’s censorship issues that have enraged so many, but there are some serious downsides to D.Tube to be considered…

The Uploader is a mess! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some video files it seems to arbitrarily reject. It doesn’t work at all on Google Chrome for me, it works better on Firefox and best on Opera. I’m pretty tech-savvy and I still find the uploader quite frustrating to use!

D.Tube takes a 25% cut of your Steemit earnings — that’s quite high! And they don’t tell you anywhere conspicuous that they take a whole quarter of your money. A lot of governments tax their citizens 25% of their income but they (ostensibly) provide private security and protection of your property. Paypal takes like a 5% fee on transactions. Most web services that facilitate or middle man some kind of transaction take less than 10%. So 25% just seems greedy, especially considering all the issues D.Tube has, and remember D.Tube doesn’t have to pay to host those videos (that’s what you do!) they just provide the distribution.

DTube is missing a badly needed FAQ or instructional section. There’s a number of things I’m curious about…

Will my DTube account ever get an analytics section? Can I see where in the world my videos are being viewed? Watch time? Which of my videos are most popular? How are my viewers finding my videos?

Will I ever be able to see the view counts on my videos? Or is that contrary to the Steemit ethos?

If I understand Steem correctly once I publish something it’s on the blockchain forever OR is there a way to unpublish or delete my content?

Do I have to publish a video as soon as it’s uploaded? Or is there a way to upload, make some edits and then publish?

What exactly are the limits on content on DTube? I know it’s a free speech platform BUT there must be some content that’s not allowed like porn. What about uploading Hollywood movies or TV series? Or extreme political content or “hate speech”?

What copyright restrictions are there? If I upload someone else’s content what happens?

What are the legal implications of using DTube? Am I committing a (benign and perhaps not even unethical) crime by unwittingly distributing copyrighted content on DTube?

What about privacy? If I use an anonymous account user name on DTube how easy is it for someone to determine my real identity? Does DTube use any encryption technology?

What might get me kicked off DTube or Steemit?

Joining DTube/Steemit is a hurdle! I’ve been evangelizing DTube/Steemit to my audience yet very few have joined it because you have to go through Steemit’s user filtering process which takes like a week. DTube’s user base would grow MUCH faster with instantaneous account creation using Facebook connect BUT require that users formally join Steemit to upload content.

Is Steemit a SCAM?

It’s hard to call it a blatant scam but it’s really a classic pyramid scheme, where the founders and very early adopters are making A LOT of money and the opportunity prospects for everyone else are inflated by perverse financial incentives. If you’ve got a lot of Bitcoin that you’re willing to convert it over and invest it in Steem and you’re willing to spend a lot of time gaming their system, it’s probably a decent business opportunity. But it’s really a waste of time if you’re a writer, creative, or a researcher.

Can realize the potential of free speech supercharged by cryptocurrency?

I’ve been on for a few months now and it seems to be superior in a lot of dimensions and I’m hopeful that it can avoid a lot of the pitfalls Steemit is falling for…

Constructive feedback

  • Minds clearly has better technology and UI. I especially like the Medium-like blogging function here — although it has intermittent issues saving articles.
  • It’s smartphone apps work pretty well.
  • badly needs a night mode function to save my poor eyes from the glowing white screen.
  • The video function on Minds are still pretty weak. It looks like they are going the distributed route like D.Tube. The video UI looks like it belongs in a 1990’s website. It’s a long ways away from being an alternative to Youtube! I can’t even embed a Minds video in a Minds blog.

What’s great about Youtube is discoverability, in my 6 years of doing business online more people have found me from Youtube than anywhere else — Steemit is really not designed for discoverability, I’m hoping that minds takes some cues from Youtube.

Perhaps Steemit’s decentralization creates bad incentives that encourage cheaters to abuse the system. Maybe it's better to have a modicum of centralization with some curation of the community. Or perhaps Steemit was just engineered poorly.

One of the first things I noticed about is the post-boost function. In theory this is a pretty good feature for users and the community in general; if I have content that I want to promote I can pay to get it in front of more people (akin to how Facebook’s advertisers pay for Facebook ads) and I can invest my cryptocurrency in building my audience on the site. But I can envision a lot of ways that it could be abused: when the cryptocurrency whales and scammy internet marketers join Minds all we’ll be seeing is their promoted content.

Where does draw the line between free speech and advertising? It’s a free speech platform so I can rant all I want about my conspiracy theory about how the moon is actually the Deathstar from Star Wars covered by grey sand and that the jews are mining it for Anunnaki gold but can I pay to broadcast that? If I want to claim that my herbal supplement will make your erections great again am I allowed to do that in my boosted posts?

I see that Minds has introduced its own proprietary cryptocurrency. Hopefully, Bill Ottman & Co can stay focused on the core mission of just being a free speech platform and resist the temptation of turning the social network into the digital equivalent of a hyped-up pyramid scheme, multi-level marketing conference in a stuffy hotel room.



Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸