WikiLeaks Takes On Craig Wright
On February 8, Craig Wright, who purports to be Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, published an extensive (and thoroughly popcorn worthy) Medium post about what Bitcoin was – and wasn’t – designed to do. In it, he says, “Bitcoin was never designed to help an anonymous money-transfer system, and I was always opposed to those seeking to operate outside the law.” He continues:
“I do not like Wikileaks, and I have never been a fan of Assange’s methods. More importantly, I am strongly opposed to criminal markets and bucket shops. Ross Ulbricht and others like him are criminals. They are not freedom fighters, they are not libertarians. They simply are predators, and they are all that Bitcoin was designed to make far more difficult.”
Such actors, Wright says, are why he (i.e., Satoshi) left: “I needed to fix what I allowed.” In a follow-up post titled “The Story of Bitcoin, Continued,” Wright paints a vivid picture of his thought process during the years directly following the invention of Bitcoin, though one in which the timeline isn’t always clear. He claims that he was working in 2011 to stop human trafficking and sexual slavery, and that Bitcoin was created to be “an immutable evidence trail” that could stop such evils.
At first glance, the posts constitute, if not a complete rewriting of cryptocurrency history, a creative reimagining of the genesis of Bitcoin.
The real Satoshi Nakamoto actually referenced WikiLeaks several times on the Bitcoin Forum. After WikiLeaks floated the idea of accepting bitcoin donations in 2010, early Bitcoin users discussed the possibility on a thread titled “Wikileaks contact info?”
At the time, WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, were public enemy number 1 for their role in publishing classified documents about US involvement in the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan. Considering this, on December 5, 2010, Satoshi wrote: “I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.”
On December 11, 2010, he added: “WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”
So, Wright’s version of events can’t necessarily be taken to contradict Satoshi’s opinion of WikiLeaks or criminal activity, especially given the dearth of publicly available writings from Satoshi, who simply stopped posting anything past December 2010 (save a lone March 2014 post stating that he was not Dorian Nakamoto, the ).
But a corresponding tweet demonstrates that Wright is, in fact, attempting to rewrite history. As part of his bid to convince the world anew that he is (or “was” as he puts it at the end of his February 9 post) Satoshi Nakamoto, he tweeted screenshots of an apparent proposal called “Project BlackNet” that he says he filed with the Australian government in 2001.
The abstract uses some of the same language as the Bitcoin white paper. Proof? Not quite. As a
“[I]n this scam attempt he was not aware that Satoshi shared a draft of the Bitcoin whitepaper in august 2008. As we can see, there are plenty of corrections made in the final Bitcoin whitepaper compared to the draft. The fake ‘Black Net’ paper, which should’ve preceded the draft by a whopping 7 years, strangely also contains these same corrections.”
Ironically, much of the legwork on collecting and analyzing those drafts was done by Gwern Branwen, who co-authored the now-infamous 2015 Wired article about Wright, “Bitcoin’s Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Is Probably This Unknown Australian Genius.”
Wright’s tweet gave WikiLeaks ample opportunity to hit back against Wright. It did so today, February 12, by reminding people that this isn’t the first time Wright’s been caught up in a forgery dispute, posting:
It followed up with documentation from a GitHub repository called CultOfCraig dedicated, in part, to documenting his history of alleged forgery, which WikiLeaks claims to have independently verified. The document actually surfaced in February of last year. In it, Wright appears to have edited an August 2008 blog post to say he would “have a cryptocurrency paper out soon.”
The Bitcoin white paper was released in October of that year, but even it did not use the term “cryptocurrency.” Nor had
Wright, however, remains undeterred, calling WikiLeaks “fake news.” The website Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) disagrees. Instead, it finds, “[W]hile the material dumps are unaltered and not biased they have demonstrated a political agenda though the information they choose to dump, which some believe tends to favor Russia.”
Elizabeth Lea Vos of Disobedient Media objects to the bent of that assessment, citing former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who claims to have tried to leak official documents to WikiLeaks only to be refused “because they could not 100% verify them.” (However, MBFC never questioned the veracity of the documents published by WikiLeaks.) Of Vos’ site, MBFC says, “Overall, we rate Disobedient Media a strongly right biased conspiracy source, based on numerous examples of publishing information that is not conclusive or supported by evidence.”
If that sounds like a digression, apologies. But distrust of media sources – and even the fact checkers that rate media sources – is part of what allows malevolent actors like Craig Wright to persist; get far enough down the rabbit hole and the truth becomes harder to make out. Now, Wright has gone so far as to suggest that WikiLeaks, which stands apart from traditional media structures by publishing directly, is fraudulent.
The finger-pointing and forgeries and cries of fake news, as fun as it all is, obscures Bitcoin’s true beginnings and allows observers to reframe the narrative to fit their own leanings, just as Wright has done. There is an evidence trail of what actually happened, alright, but it’s far from immutable.