Magnus Granath, known on Twitter as “Hodlonaut,” won a lawsuit against Craig Wright on Thursday, a judge in Norway ruled.
Granath sued Wright in Norway to try and preempt a defamation suit Wright planned to bring against Granath in the U.K., where defamation laws are heavily tipped in favor of the plaintiff and monetary damages can be enormous.
At the center of both cases is a series of tweets, written by Granath in March 2019, in which he called Wright – who has long claimed and failed to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin – a “fraud” and a “scammer.” Granath asked the Norwegian court to rule that his tweets were protected by the freedom of speech, therefore preventing Wright from pursuing damages in relation to the tweets.
“The result was as expected,” Granath told CoinDesk. “I am very happy and thankful for all the support.”
Wright’s attorneys told CoinDesk he would appeal the ruling and warned that “anonymous online bullying” could have a “chilling effect” on public discourse.
After a weekslong trial in Oslo in September, District Court Judge Helen Engebrigtsen found in favor of Granath, ordering him acquitted of all claims for compensation and not liable for damages relating to the tweets.
Wright has also been ordered to pay Granath’s legal fees in the amount of NOK 4,053,750 (approximately $383,000).
Judge Engebrigtsen ruled that Granath’s use of words such as “fraud” and “scammer” to describe Wright were fair.
“The court believes that ‘fraud’/’fraudulently’ in this context means “one who is something other than what he claims to be.’ ‘Fake’ has a similar meaning: ‘illegitimate,’ ‘false,’ ‘something other than what he pretends to be,” Engebrigtsen wrote. “‘Scammer’ must be understood the same way, in the sense of ‘swindler’ or ‘cheater.’”
Granath’s lawyer, Ørjan Salvesen Haukaas, appeared positive about the outcome, though he said he would review it further.
“We note that the court has agreed with our arguments and our client’s position in the case, and we are of course happy with that,” Haukaas said in an emailed statement.
Judge Engebrigtsen wrote that the evidence presented by Wright’s lawyers was “not suitable to change [the court’s] prevailing opinion that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto.”
Wright’s lack of evidence that he is Satoshi has been an issue in his other trials, including a recent defamation case he brought against podcaster Peter McCormack in the U.K.. A judge found Wright to have submitted false evidence and awarded him a single pound in damages.
Forensic analysts hired by Granath pored over documents previously supplied by Wright which purported to prove he had been the author of the Bitcoin white paper – but which included discrepancies such as the inclusion of fonts not available at the time.
“Both KPMG (on behalf of Granath) and BDO (on behalf of Wright) have found that these documents contain at best unexplained changes which are likely to have been made after the date the documents are claimed to be from,” the judgment said.
Given the lack of cryptographic proof available at the time, “the court believes that Granath had sufficient factual grounds to claim that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto in March 2019,” Engebrigtsen said.
“Wright has come out with a controversial claim, and must withstand criticism from dissenters,” she added, concluding that Granath’s statements were lawful, not defamatory.
Engebrigtsen also appeared to take up the idea that Twitter is a naturally rough-and-tumble environment where users should have a thick skin, after Granath’s lawyers noted that Wright had also tweeted strong words such as “cuck” and “soy boy.”
“Wright himself uses coarse slang and derogatory references, and so, in the court's view, must accept that others use similar jargon against him,” the judgment said.
Halvor Manshaus, Wright’s lawyer, told CoinDesk that the legal team “[does] not agree with the court’s assessment” that Granath’s communications were not, in a legal sense, defamatory or privacy-breaching and said the Twitter user “breached the commonly accepted threshold of decency.”
“Private citizens should enjoy the same protection on Twitter as on other media platforms,” Manshaus said. “Anonymous online bullying and harassment risks having a chilling effect on meaningful debate and the civil exchange of views and opinions. Individuals should not be dissuaded from seeking to challenge persistent and pervasive online mistreatment or intimidation.”
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UPDATE (Oct. 20, 2022, 14:35 UTC): Adds additional context.
UPDATE (Oct. 20, 2022, 14:50 UTC): Adds further detail from ruling as well as statements from the parties.
UPDATE (Oct. 20, 2022, 15:15 UTC): Adds that Craig Wright intends to appeal.
UPDATE (Oct. 20, 2022, 15:50 UTC): Adds link to translated ruling.
Editor’s note: Some comments in this article have been translated from Norwegian. The original ruling was published in Norwegian.
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