When it comes to bitcoin, it would be fair to say that the mainstream media does have a tendency to get things wrong.
Although coverage has improved since the early days, as some journalists are beginning to take the digital currency and its underlying technology more seriously, mistakes continue to crop up.
Ranging from hugely inaccurate to outrageously funny, here are some of the biggest mainstream media fails to date.
1. Hunt for Satoshi Nakamoto
The mainstream press has joined the pursuit to identify Satoshi Nakamoto, the person or group of people credited with creating bitcoin.
Back in 2014, Newsweek thought it had found the real Satoshi – Dorian Nakamoto, an unassuming and unemployed engineer with apparently no background in cryptography.
He denied he was the real creator of bitcoin soon after the story was published. Despite this, Newsweek and author Leah McGrath did not issue an apology, instead they re-emphasised their assumptions in a statement, which noted “the facts as reported point toward Mr Nakamoto’s role in the founding of Bitcoin”.
At the time, Nakamoto and his lawyer publicly said they would like to sue the publication but required more funds to do. In an attempt to raise money, the duo created website called ‘Newsweek Lied’, which featured a photo of Dorian Nakamoto holding a sign saying “Newsweek’s article hurt my family”.
“Goodman showed up at his house, scared his elderly mother, obtained his e-mail address by deception, and misquoted or invented quotes from both him and his brothers. They published his health, financial, and employment history recklessly. They need to account for what they did.”
Doran is not the only person to have been named as bitcoin’s mysterious creator (or creators) in the past.
At the end of 2013, blogger Skye Grey linked Nick Szabo to bitcoin’s white paper using stylometric analysis – the study of linguistic style, usually used to attribute authorship to anonymous or disputed documents.
Hal Finney, a cryptography pioneer and the first person (aside from Satoshi) to use the bitcoin protocol has also been linked with Satoshi.
2. Bitcoin CEO
Following on from the general misunderstanding – or confusion – that bitcoin is a company and not a peer-to-peer decentralised network, last March saw the emergence of reports which ran a headline noting Bitcoin’s CEO had tragically died in a suspected suicide. The victim, was in fact Autumn Radtke, the CEO of in-game currency trading platform First Meta.
However, Radtke was not the first ‘Bitcoin CEO’ to be mentioned in the media. Steve Beauregard, CEO of bitcoin payment processor GoCoin was also mistakenly dubbed bitcoin CEO by a journalist from the Santa Monica Mirror.
More recently, Yahoo News referred to Mark Karpeles, the CEO of failed bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, as “Bitcoin CEO”.
3. Bitcoin bowl no more
“The Bitcoin Bowl is no more” began an article by CBS Sports earlier this year, before continuing to note that “bitcoin was dropping out of its sponsorship deal with the bowl in St. Petersburg Florida after only one year”.
Bitcoin, however, cannot pull out from any kind of social engagement as it is not an entity, nor is it – as many would have you believe – a company.
4. Bitcoin is dead
If the headlines are to be believed, bitcoin has died a few times during its relatively short history.
Always a controversial topic, journalists have, rather prematurely, predicted the digital currency’s death on various occasions – with some accounts reading like true bitcoin obituaries.
The cryptocurrency has undeniably had its ups and downs but the media has perhaps focused too heavily on its volatility.
Whether it’s down to the media’s misunderstanding or the speed at which news is relayed nowadays, it is fair to say that some mistakes have provided hours of entertainment among the crypto community, whilst others have angered bitcoin enthusiasts, who have always jumped to the digital currency’s defence.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk’s founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.