Did Newsweek Dox the Wrong Satoshi Nakamoto?

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Is Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto of Temple City, California, the same “Satoshi Nakamoto” who invented Bitcoin? Newsweek’s Leah McGrath Goodman says he is in a cover story here, and Felix Salmon does a good job of running through the evidence here. Matt Yglesias is skeptical:

Here’s the question of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “scoop,” as I understand it—is the fact that a person is named “Satoshi Nakamoto” good evidence that the person in question is the originator of Bitcoin? If it is, then all of the other evidence regarding this particular Satoshi Nakamoto is telling….But absent the name, there is very little here.

I don’t agree. The key evidence is this conversation that Goodman had with Nakamoto in front of his home:

Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions.

“I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. “It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”

Nakamoto says he was misunderstood. His English isn’t great, and he was just referring to no longer being an engineer. Goodman, however, says this is nonsense. “I stand completely by my exchange with Mr. Nakamoto. There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our conversation — and his acknowledgment of his involvement in bitcoin.”

In any case, this is the key piece of evidence. If Goodman is right, then Nakamoto is now covering up after making a momentary slip. But if Goodman stretched the quote a bit to make it sound cleaner than it was in real life, then Nakamoto is very likely in the clear.

Last night there was some chatter on Twitter about whether Goodman’s story sounded right. She made a mistake identifying LA County sheriff’s deputies as “police officers from the Temple City, Calif., sheriff’s department,” for example, and some of her quotes seem a little too good to be true. Personally, I wasn’t persuaded. The former is a minor error, and I didn’t find the quotes all that hard to believe. What’s more, Goodman was very transparent about how she tracked down this story and what her sources were. There’s nothing obscure about any of it. It’s a very, very public story and, thanks to Goodman’s transparency, one that’s pretty easy to check. If Goodman made any of it up, she sure chose a very spectacular way to commit career suicide.

All that said, Karl Smith has a piece at FT Alphaville that compares some of Dorian Nakamoto’s writing to that of the Nakamoto who wrote the original Bitcoin proposal. He’s pretty persuasive that they don’t seem to match. This isn’t a smoking gun or anything, but it definitely gives us fresh reason to be skeptical.

In any case, tracking down the real identity of “Satoshi Nakamoto” is hard, but I suspect that verifying whether Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto of Temple City is the same guy isn’t. One way or another, I have a feeling that someone is going to clear this up definitively within a week or two. Maybe sooner.

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