In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the tech industry was battling for control of the future — and Microsoft had a reputation for using dirty corporate trickery to win its share.
It was accused of filing lawsuits to smear competitors and delegitimize rivals by planting false error codes in their software that ran on Windows. If the allegations that Microsoft faced in several antitrust lawsuits are true, then the company was engaging in an especially hardball version of a classic FUD campaign.
What Is FUD in Slang?
FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty and doubt,” and it represents the tactic of sowing discord and spreading false information to discredit a person, product, organization, concept or movement in the public eye.
Whistleblowers often face ugly FUD campaigns when they become a threat to power. The FBI and CIA were infamous for using FUD tactics in the 1960s to discredit perceived enemies. FUD is disseminated from every angle on any issue that has even the remotest political tinge, from climate change to voting rights.
Although the concept is nothing new, the acronym gained prominence in recent years when it was applied to a new, unfamiliar and widely misunderstood form of digital capital — cryptocurrency.
What Does Fudding Mean in Crypto?
In the early 2010s, when terms like “blockchain,” “mining” and “decentralized currency” were just starting to seep into the public consciousness, much of what mainstream audiences knew about cryptocurrency was based on FUD.
Bitcoin as the Preferred Currency of Online Criminals
Many people were first introduced to Bitcoin when the FBI shut down Silk Road and seized 144,000 BTC, which was worth around $28.5 million at the time.
What was true was that Silk Road, a website operating on the dark web, provided a public marketplace for illegal activity, most notably, the open buying and selling of illicit drugs. Also true was the fact that bitcoin was the site’s medium of exchange.
The FUD was that bitcoin is completely untraceable and anonymous — it never was — and that criminals developed it to create an underground currency for black market transactions in the dark corners of the internet that were beyond the reach of law enforcement.
That association with criminality stigmatized cryptocurrency with FUD for years to come.
Bitcoin Traders Are One Hack Away From Ruin
All of that is true, but the moment served as many people’s first introduction to cryptocurrency, and the scandal stoked an avalanche of FUD that painted cryptocurrency as an illegitimate, insecure and unsafe online plaything that could never count as “real money.”
Like Silk Road, the Mt. Gox scandal mired the industry in FUD-based misinformation and mistrust among the public for years to come.
Government Regulators vs. Online Anarchists
Thanks to Mt. Gox and Silk Road, crypto entered the mainstream consciousness mostly on a tide of negative press. In the public imagination, cryptocurrency was a tool of anonymous online anarchists trying to upend the world’s financial markets and replace global fiat currency with untraceable online alt-money.
At the same time, governments and regulators were unsure how to respond to an unregulated alternative currency. In the U.S. and beyond, officials began talking about regulating and taxing crypto. China launched a series of highly publicized restrictions and crackdowns that eventually led to outright bans.
In reality, most crypto investors wanted and welcomed rules and oversight, and governments had legitimate concerns about security and consumer protection. But widespread FUD created the image of crypto traders as online pirates who were being targeted for destruction by powerful global forces — not exactly the type of environment that draws prudent mainstream investors.
The Fudding of Individual Tokens
As tens of thousands of altcoins followed bitcoin to the market, crypto FUD transformed from industry-wide macro-level misinformation to the targeting of individual tokens.
In the late 2010s, “hodl your coins and ignore the FUD” became a popular meme among Bitcoin enthusiasts. “Hodl” originated as a typo of the word “hold” but became a crypto initialism for “hold on for dear life” — resist the urge to sell an asset even when a public tide was rising against it.
In those days, Bitcoin was facing enormous FUD that said it was in a bubble, that it lacked functional utility, that it was unsustainably energy inefficient and that more useful tokens like ethereum would soon phase it out.
Bitcoin remains the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, but it — and thousands of competing altcoins — are still mired in FUD.
A single tweet from Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian or another crypto influencer can stigmatize a token with FUD, as can one negative report from an industry analyst or a report that a major company will begin accepting payment in a certain token.
What Does FUD Mean in Sales?
The FUD concept is as old as time, but the acronym itself emerged in the 1970s in marketing, sales and public relations literature. Back then, brands weren’t trying to spread FUD — they were trying to counter it by using marketing techniques to change negative consumer perceptions about their products or industries.
Selling is all about changing minds, and salespeople might harness the power of FUD to convince prospects that:
- A competitor’s offerings are weaker than they appear.
- A competitor’s finances or management are unstable.
- Their data or personal information could be at risk if they don’t purchase a product or service or if they purchase a competitor’s instead.
- They’ll lose their only opportunity to purchase a product if they don’t buy now.
- They’ll miss out on a too-good-to-be-true sale.
- Their quality of life will suffer if they don’t purchase a product.
- Buying a product or not buying a product could make them or their families unsafe.
- Prices will soon be going up.
- Cheaper alternatives will end up costing them more in the long run.
- A controversial ingredient or component — like sugar, plastic or gluten — is either worse than or not as bad as they might think, depending on whether they or a competitor are the ones selling it.
- Support for an older product might soon be stopped.
- Competitors are associated with dishonest or unethical suppliers, partners or governments.
- They might lose preferred customer status if they don’t make a follow-up purchase.
What Is FUD in Cyber Security?
FUD has been a part of cybersecurity since the dawn of the digital age. Every new breach or hack generates FUD-based panic about the security of private data, finances or online identities — and it’s not hard to understand why.
Major institutions with enormous resources like Target, Microsoft, Facebook, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase and Equifax have all been the victim of sophisticated data breaches. Celebrities have been the victims of hacks that led to their most intimate and private photos being distributed online for all to see. Whistleblowers proved that major software companies had worked surreptitiously to give governments or law enforcement access to data or devices found in millions of homes.
With all that in mind, it’s not hard to understand why FUD could make it hard for cybersecurity professionals to convince average people that they can keep them safe.
Cut Through the FUD
FUD is most closely associated with crypto, but its effects are present in every realm of the investing and financial world. FUD is based on emotion, and emotional investing is a recipe for disaster.
To cut through the FUD, base all investment decisions on strategy and analysis, and not social media chatter, news reports, memes or the herd mentality.
Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.
- Ekran. 2022. "Moving Beyond Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD): 3 Ways to Strengthen Your Cybersecurity Today."
- UpGuard. 2022. "Biggest Data Breaches in US History [Updated 2022]."
- Fortune. 2022. "Crypto is fully banned in China and 8 other countries."
- Finextra. 2022. "What Is Crypto FUD and Why It Might Have an Effect on Prices."
- SoFi Learn. 2022. "What Does FUD Mean?"
- Justia. "Caldera, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 72 F. Supp. 2d 1295 (D. Utah 1999)."
- ZDNET. 2022. "I asked Amazon to show me weird tech gadgets. I still haven't recovered."
- Wired. "Wired."