The last 24 hours or so have been quite the ride for Bitcoin and its mysterious creator Satoshi Nakamoto, as Australian computer scientist Dr. Craig Wright stepped forward to claim that he is the man behind the Japanese pseudonym, and the media (including us) responded rabidly. But as the hot takes on Wright’s announcement wear off, a second surge of coverage is rising: redditors, cryptologists, and Bitcoin experts are casting all kinds of doubt on Craig’s briefly embraced claim.
If Wright really is Nakamoto, as a rapidly waning portion of the internet still believes him to be, he hasn’t done much to prove it. His announcement was met with a tidal wave of suspicion from the beginning, with even the publications he revealed himself to, like the Economist, making sure to hedge their bets. Matthew Green, a cryptography expert and Assistant Professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, says Wright’s claim is a complete waste of time — at least in its current form.
“I can’t even see any reason why anyone would think it’s him at this point,” Green told Inverse by phone. “There’s really just two or three — no, forget that, there’s only one thing you have to do to prove [this], which is show that you have some of the original Bitcoin that Satoshi Nakamoto mined when he created Bitcoin. Just show that you can spend them. Without that happening, I don’t even understand why we’re paying attention to this.”
Wright told the BBC that he would move some of these early Bitcoins soon, but has yet to elaborate. He published a new blog post today titled “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof,” presumably to convince us that he plans to provide such proof, but it only seems to have left more people wondering why he’s all talk so far. Why all the preamble? Why not just do it? The answer — that Wright is a fake — is being treated as a foregone conclusion by Bitcoin experts and in many threads on Reddit. Wright declared on his blog that his online signature, a statement from Jean-Paul Sartre, text through which Nakamoto had also indicated we would know his identity, was proof — but the evidence was roundly dismissed within hours.
“Wright is lying,” security researcher Dan Kaminsky writes to Inverse. “It’s rare I can be so definitive, but the math isn’t subtle. He says he (as Satoshi) signed some writings from the French philosopher Sartre, but the signature is seven years old and comes from Bitcoin itself. I have no idea why Wright would say these things, and I wouldn’t normally care. Lots of people lie. But very credible people in the Bitcoin community are backing Wright in unusual ways and frankly they’re becoming less credible.”
Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen, who could not be reached for comment, has stated unequivocally that he believes Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto, and that he invented Bitcoin. Seething redditors have been dissecting why exactly Andresen is supporting a story that many believe has been widely discredited.
“The big question is why Gavin says he still believes Wright is Satoshi,” redditor granatheus, a teacher in Norway who’s been active in the Bitcoin forum for several years, writes to Inverse. “Has he just been misled or is there something more sinister afoot? Keep in mind that all doubt could be removed by Wright in a minute if he really is who he says he is. Instead he demanded that Andresen sign an NDA and holds a private demonstration for him behind closed doors. There is no valid reason for this.”
Other Redditors also alluded to numerous non-disclosure agreements to Inverse. And Redditor theymos, head administrator of bitcointalk.org and top moderator of /r/Bitcoin, said he’d be “shocked” if Craig really turned out to be Nakamoto in the end.
“Wright has presented zero evidence of any connection with Satoshi,” theymos wrote to Inverse. “In his first attempt several months ago, he was shown to have back-dated blog posts and PGP signatures in an attempt to trick the community into thinking that he was Satoshi. Yesterday, he used a blog post filled with technobabble to trick people into thinking that he signed something using one of Satoshi’s likely keys, but it was quickly discovered that he hadn’t actually signed anything … There is absolutely no reason for anyone to associate him with Satoshi.”
“There are a lot of people trying to get their name out there,” Green says when asked why someone would claim to be Nakamoto if, in fact, he is not. “Even if a small percentage of people believe the claim, that’s more than zero. Maybe you come out of it better off. Doesn’t mean the rest of us have to pay him the attention. There’s always the possibility he does come along with some real proof, but that will still require him answering why he’s fooling around and not responding to the real questions. If he doesn’t, I think we pretty much just forget about him. But even if he does, it leaves a lot of questions still about his credibility. By pussyfooting around so much, he’s raised the bar for what he has to prove.”
Kaminsky contacted Inverse to say that Andresen responded to him on his website. The Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist appears to backtrack in his support of Wright:
“I was as surprised by the ‘proof’ as anyone, and don’t yet know exactly what is going on. It was a mistake to agree to publish my post before I saw his – I assumed his post would simply be a signed message anybody could easily verify. And it was probably a mistake to even start to play the Find Satoshi game, but I DO feel grateful to Satoshi. If I’m lending credibility to the idea that a public key operation should remain private, that is entirely accidental. OF COURSE he should just publish a signed message or (equivalently) move some btc through the key associated with an early block.”