Australian computer scientist Craig Wright has long claimed, and failed to conclusively prove, that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.
After being “doxxed” as Satoshi to the media in December 2015 – widely speculated to be a publicity stunt arranged by Wright and his associates – Wright kicked off a series of moves the following year intended to convince the public of his claims, including a private “signing session” with former Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen and a public blog post (the so-called “Sartre post”) purporting to use Satoshi’s private keys to sign a message.
The criticism, however, did not stop Wright from continuing to claim he is Satoshi. Wright went on to create a new fork of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision (BSV), and developed a new method of convincing the world of his Satoshiness: attempting to sue anyone who says otherwise into financial oblivion.
Read More: Presenting CoinDesk's Most Influential 2022
This year, one of the people on the receiving end of Wright’s wealth and legal might was Magnus Granath, a Norwegian citizen better known by his online alias, Hodlonaut.
After Hodlonaut posted a series of tweets in March 2019 calling Wright a “fraud” and a “scammer” and labeling him a “Faketoshi,” Wright sicced his legal team on the public school teacher, demanding he delete the tweets and declare Wright to be Satoshi.
When Hodlonaut did not comply, Wright offered a bounty on his identity, doxxed him and filed a defamation lawsuit against him in the U.K. Granath filed his own lawsuit in his native Norway, asking a Norwegian judge to declare that his tweets were protected by the freedom of speech and preventing Wright from suing for damages in connection with the tweets.
The resulting trial in Oslo was crypto’s own version of David vs. Goliath: Hodlonaut’s two lawyers – paid largely through crowdfunding efforts – faced off against Wright’s international team of nine, and emerged victorious.
During his roughly three hours of testimony, Hodlonaut was composed and steadfast in his assertions that Wright was not Satoshi.
“There was a consensus, and there still is a consensus,” he told the judge, “that Craig Wright is a fraud.”
Hodlonaut told the court how Wright’s lawyers told him the suit could be dropped if only he agreed to delete his tweets – and tweet a pre-written statement saying he acknowledged Wright as Satoshi.
“I can’t do that, I’m not willing to do that, because it is a lie,” Hodlonaut said of the settlement terms. “I’m not willing to be in any way part of continuing something that I believe to be a fraud.”
On Oct. 20, Norwegian District Court Judge Helen Engebrigtsen ruled in favor of Granath, declaring that he “had sufficient factual grounds to claim that Wright had lied and cheated in his attempt to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.”
Though Wright’s lawyers appealed the verdict in November, Hodlonaut’s willingness to stand up to a crypto bully who has time and time again used legal threats to silence his critics (as well as sue bitcoin developers and websites hosting the Bitcoin white paper) has struck a substantial blow and perhaps strengthened the resolve of others who have been silenced.
However, Hodlonaut’s victory in Oslo has not stopped Wright from continuing to use the bully cudgel of the courts against his critics – and not everyone is willing or able to stand up to him like Hodlonaut.
In filing his appeal in Oslo, Crypto’s Goliath may have stood back up, and only time will tell whether Hodlonaut will prevail a second time. But in fighting back, Hodlonaut is fighting for something precious to many in the crypto community – free speech – so he has a massive crowd cheering him on.
CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk offers all employees above a certain salary threshold, including journalists, stock options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.