Denial, Outrage and Acceptance: Reactions to Satoshi Nakamoto's 'Unmasking'
Update 8:51 GMT: Bitcoin Foundation board member Gavin Andresen has posted an open letter to the report author on reddit.
Update 7:30 GMT: Bitcoin Financial Association member Bruce Fenton has offered to charter a plane for Satoshi Nakamoto, as part of comments meant to encourage the community to protect the alleged bitcoin founder.
Newsweek returned to print edition this week with an article that was sure to grab attention and stir controversy: the announcement that its two-month investigation had revealed the creator bitcoin – a 64-year-old Japanese American with a love for privacy and model trains named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto.
Unsurprisingly, the declaration sent tremors through the bitcoin community and drew a range of reactions, though the most vocal were those who protested the report and the methods of its author Leah McGrath Goodman.
Chief among the author's critics was Bitcoin lead developer and Bitcoin Foundation board member Gavin Andresen, who indicated that he now regrets talking to the journalist. The report revealed an email message that suggested that Andresen had an early role in promoting the notion that Nakamoto was a "shadowy figure", and that Andresen's relationship with Nakamoto ended abruptly.
I'm disappointed Newsweek decided to dox the Nakamoto family, and regret talking to Leah.
— Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen) March 6, 2014
Though the article did not confirm conclusively that Nakamoto was the long-sought inventor of Bitcoin, certain statements by the story's subject suggest this is the most plausible, if not exactly desirable, conclusion. Said Nakamoto in perhaps the piece's most notable quote:
"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Goodman soon took to Twitter to defend her story, offering to answer questions about the article.
At press time, the tweet had garnered roughly 15 questions seeking responses. These included queries as to why Goodman had elected to release potentially sensitive personal information on her subject and if Nakamoto had contacted her since the article's release. Though, the tweets arguably best succeeded in capturing the range of reactions observed in the community.
Despite the implications of the quote from Nakamoto, there are some in the community who were incredulous that bitcoin's inventor would reveal himself so easily, especially given the elaborate protections afforded by his principal invention.
On reddit, the community was quick to suggest that finding Nakamoto would not bring any benefit to its creator or the bitcoin movement, but rather detract from the currency's decentralized stance.
Former BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem told CoinDesk that he is among those who believe the real Nakamoto is still out there, if he exists at all:
"I find it hard to believe that a guy who's name is Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto who went sooo far, farther than anyone I know to hide is anonymity, signed messages with PGP, used a throw away email address, avoided all emails about his personal life, worked for the US government, would use his REAL name on potentially the most groundbreaking technological innovation of our time."
Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik also suggested that the article isn't conclusive in its findings, telling CoinDesk:
"This Newsweek article is no more, or less, credible than other articles supposing to find Satoshi. It offers zero credible evidence that he designed bitcoin. We will know Satoshi by his digital signatures: the "real" Satoshi can easily prove their identity by (a) signing a message with his well-known PGP key, or (b) signing a message using bitcoins presumed to be mined and held by Satoshi."
The loudest protests were heard from members of the bitcoin community on reddit that suggested the article went too far in terms of the amount of information it provided on an individual that they did not firmly connect to the project.
These community members point to the fact that the article revealed Nakamoto's address, license plate number and estimated personal fortune as well as detailed information about his family members.
The result, they say, is that Nakamoto, regardless of his connection to bitcoin, could be at risk.
Goodman defended these actions on Twitter, stating that such information is already public for those who wish to access it.
Further, photos of Nakamoto, Goodman said, served the purpose of highlighting his humble lifestyle.
— Leah McGrath Goodman (@truth_eater) March 6, 2014
Other reddit commentators suggested retaliatory actions against Goodman, though these were brushed aside by others who cautioned that any such actions could further shift the public narrative on bitcoin in a negative direction.
For others, the announcement was less jarring and more inevitable given the media sensation that bitcoin has become over the last year. Goodman received her fair share of praise for the piece, even from bitcoin users, some who suggested that this provided answers to long unanswered questions.
@truth_eater people may disagree on methods, but at the end of the day, we all very much wanted to know
— Nick Doiron (@mapmeld) March 6, 2014
Famed bitcoin investor Roger Ver, speaking to Wired, was more intrigued by the news. He did not provide any comment as to whether the story was accurate, but suggested he found it "interesting if it turned out Satoshi Nakamoto was the real name the entire time."
One reddit user chose to look at the event in the context of history, suggesting that great creators and bound to be tied to their inventions, for better or for worse.
Image credit: Mystery man via Shutterstock
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