The price of bitcoin has risen by more than $1,000 over the last week, following a record-breaking surge in online searches for "btc".
Google Trends, which tracks search volume on the company's search engine, shows interest in the term "btc" suddenly shot up on 29 August and has continued to systematically spike at 6am each morning since.
The mysterious trend is not limited to one country, with the US, UK, Russia, Australia and Brazil all experiencing major upticks in search volume at this time. Unusually, the country to see the biggest increase in searches for 'btc' is Romania.
In recent years there has been a strong correlation between online interest in bitcoin and its price.
The cryptocurrency hit a record high of $20,000 in 2017, coinciding with record-high search levels on Google.
Since the recent online search surge, the price of bitcoin has risen steadily, but is nowhere near the levels it reached two years ago.
The cryptocurrency is currently trading at around $10,800, having been trading below $9,400 before 29 August.
The rising price over the last week has been attributed to escalating economic and geopolitical uncertainty around the globe.
Market analysts told The Independent earlier this week that turmoil surrounding Brexit, along with the trade war between the US and China, had caused investors to turn to bitcoin as a relatively safe haven asset.
However, this analysis came before this search trend was spotted and some now believe that it may be having a significant impact on the price. It remains unclear is who is behind it and how they are doing it.
"It is reasonable to assume that someone is behind these radical changes," wrote cryptocurrency analyst Bendik Norheim Schei. "That the same pattern can be seen all over the world may indicate that VPN services have been used to distribute the search across the world, thus achieving a global trend."
The price of bitcoin is notoriously volatile and is often difficult to both predict and explain.
The correlation between online search interest and bitcoin's price has until now been a rare constant.
A study in 2017 found that high search volumes for bitcoin-related terms like 'btc usd' often preceded price bubbles, while low engagement usually signalled a good time to buy.
Data gathered by digital marketing firm SemRush noted an 80 per cent correlation between search volume and bitcoin's price, though no conclusions were drawn as to which was the determining factor.
Cryptocurrency analyst Anton Lucian described the latest increase in bitcoin search levels as "just plain strange" and pointed to manipulation as "the likely culprit".
Bitcoin investor and author Glen Goodman explained how such manipulation might be used to augment the price of the cryptocurrency.
"There are algorithms programmed to look at Google Trends data and try to find correlations between numbers of searches for the word 'btc' and the movements in the bitcoin price," he said.
"If they detect patterns, it may be profitable to trade off that data. This hacker may be buying some bitcoin, then sending a ton of 'btc' search queries to Google. The algoirthms see search numbers have risen and are triggered to buy a lot of bitcoin, which pushes the price up, and the hacker then sells their bitcoin at a profit. Easy money."
Google has measures to prevent people manipulating searches, though practices like Google Bombing have proved in the past that it is possible to game the system.
The Independent has reached out to Google for comment.
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