Science & Tech

What Does FUD Mean?

Fearful man looking at smartphone
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There’s a good chance you’ve seen the acronym “FUD” to describe someone saying negative about something in technology—such as cryptocurrency or NFTs. Here’s what it means and where you can find it.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.” It’s a communication tactic used to influence people towards having a negative perception of something, generally through deliberate misinformation or inciting fear. Historically, FUD has also been used to mean “fear, uncertainty, and disinformation,” which has essentially the same meaning as its current iteration.

You can find FUD in various contexts, including marketing, politics, media, finance, and public relations. FUD influences people toward a particular type of behavior. For example, a company might use negative marketing about another product to spread “FUD,” particularly uncertainty about the effectiveness of a competitor. This practice encourages people to switch brands and increase sales.

The acronym is usually used on the internet in reference to negativity regarding new-age financial instruments like cryptocurrency, with people characterizing naysayers as spreading “FUD.” The term is a common sight in cryptocurrency-focused communities, such as Twitter, Reddit, and Discord servers dedicated to a specific coin or asset.

The History of FUD

Despite its current usage, FUD has been around for a long time. The phrase “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” dates back to the 1920s and was found in literary writings and essays. The abbreviation “FUD” was adopted in the 1970s for marketing, sales, and public relations. Most of the material surrounding FUD discussed how to combat a negative consumer perception of a product or brand.

Microsoft logo on campus
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In the 1990s and 2000s, the term became associated with the tech giant Microsoft, which was accused of engaging in FUD tactics to delegitimize other tech brands like IBM, Mozilla, and Linux. Microsoft was supposedly creating false error codes on competing products running on Windows, making them seem like unreliable pieces of software. Microsoft was also accused of funding lawsuits against competitors to negatively affect their perception in the public eye. In response, several antitrust lawsuits were filed against Microsoft for anti-competitive practices.

FUD as Used Today

Man trading assets like stocks or crypto on smartphone

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Eventually, the term FUD made its way to the cryptocurrency community, especially amidst the explosion of consumer interest that happened in the late-2010s with the emergence of Bitcoin. The value of cryptocurrencies can be incredibly volatile, with any negativity having the potential to shift the value of a coin. Since many people treat cryptocurrencies as speculative investments, they consider it imperative to combat negative press to protect the coin’s value. If they find that there’s a line of messaging that they find unwarranted, holders of that asset will call it out as being “FUD.”

FUD has given rise to the term “HODL,” which means “hold” in cryptocurrency circles. In Discord servers and Twitter threads related to cryptocurrency, you’ll find plenty of people asking other investors to “HODL” and to “not listen to the FUD.” This is because many people believe that the values of cryptocurrencies are better when people do not sell off their tokens, like Bitcoin. This also dissuades whales, investors that hold an oversized percent of the total pool, from selling their share.

FUD isn’t limited to cryptocurrencies. You might also hear FUD used to talk about retail stock investing, especially in internet communities like Wall Street Bets, which was responsible for the drastic increase in the price of Gamestop stock in 2020. You can also see FUD discussed in the context of product marketing, political advertising, and even entertainment, where public figures are frequently the subject of negative press.

What Counts as FUD?

What does and doesn’t count as FUD is subjective and can vary wildly. Cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts generally consider content that dissuades people from investing in cryptocurrency or calls into question its use cases “FUD.” On the other hand, from an outsider’s perspective, it can be tough to tell the difference between FUD and genuine skepticism, especially with the sheer volume of available online information.

The best advice is always to use your best judgment when making any financial decisions for yourself, including making investments. Never invest more than you can afford to lose, and don’t be afraid to seek out an array of perspectives.

RELATED: What Is a “Blockchain”?



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