When Newsweek announced Thursday morning that it had found Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, the Bitcoin community was immediately skeptical. It turns out their doubts may have been well founded.
Less than twelve hours after the publication of the Newsweek piece, the Associated Press reports that Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto denies having anything to do with Bitcoin, despite sharing the name of the Satoshi Nakamoto who created Bitcoin in 2008 before disappearing from the Internet several years later. In fact, Dorian Nakamoto tells the AP that he only heard of Bitcoin for the first time three weeks ago, when his 31-year-old son Eric Nakamoto passed on a Newsweek reporter’s questions about whether he’d created the cryptocurrency.
That account contrasts starkly with Newsweek’s story, which quoted Nakamoto saying that he was ”no longer involved in [Bitcoin] and I cannot discuss it…It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.” Those “no longer” phrasings implied that he had once been connected to Bitcoin, which Newsweek seems to have taken as tacit confirmation.
Nakamoto would, admittedly, have plenty of reason to deny creating Bitcoin even if he had. After Newsweek’s story dropped, reporters swarmed outside his home in Temple City, California. When he emerged and chose to speak with an AP reporter, others tailed them to a nearby restaurant and confronted him there, forcing them to abscond to the AP office.
Given that Bitcoin’s creator controls as much as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the currency, he may in fact fear for his safety. Newsweek’s story included a photo of his house that allowed readers to find his full address on Google Maps within minutes.
But other evidence also points to Dorian Nakamoto not being the same person as the one who created Bitcoin. A 2009 letter Nakamoto sent to a public works project is full of errors, mispellings and evidence of poor English skills, hardly the concise technical elegance of his Bitcoin whitepaper published a year earlier. For anyone suspecting Nakamoto of purposefully sending grammatically-challenged emails to throw reporters off his trail, earlier writings by Dorian Nakamoto such as this posting on a model train forum display better writing skills, but at a glance still don’t match the style of Bitcoin’s creator.
Update: In a posting to the P2P Foundation Thursday evening, the account thought to belong to the actual Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto was updated to add the message “I am not Dorian Nakamoto,” the first message from the account since Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto went silent in 2011.
In an open letter to Newsweek’s reporter Leah Goodman posted to Reddit, Bitcoin Foundation chief scientist and Satoshi Nakamoto confidant Gavin Andresen cast further doubts on Newsweek’s account: “All of your evidence is circumstantial, EXCEPT for the “I’m not involved in that any more” quote, which might simply be an old man saying ANYTHING to get you to go away and leave him alone.”