March 7, 2014

Is Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto the founder of Bitcoin, as Newsweek asserted Thursday? Here’s where things stand Friday morning.

Nakamoto says he’s not THE Satoshi Nakamoto. “I got nothing to do with it,” he told AP reporter Ryan Nakashima.

Newsweek stands by the story. From Gawker’s J.K. Trotter: “Asked if Newsweek still stood by Goodman’s account, editor-in-chief Jim Impoco wrote back: ‘Yes. Standing by our story. Yes.’ “

That AP interview followed a completely bizarre sequence of events. From Chris O’Brien and Andrea Chang in the Los Angeles Times:

Several hours later, Nakamoto walked out of his house and announced he wasn’t going to talk to anyone until he got some lunch first.

An AP reporter offered to buy him some lunch, and to the dismay of the other media members, the pair climbed into a blue Prius and drove to Mako Sushi in Arcadia.

Rather than letting the scoop slip away, several reporters followed them to Mako’s and tried to join the conversation.

Nakamoto and the AP reporter hopped back into their car and for the next hour or so drove around local streets and highways with at least six other reporters tailing them.

Finally, the Prius pulled into the parking garage in the downtown AP building. A Los Angeles Times reporter followed Nakamoto into the elevator, where he made his impromptu denial. Eventually, she and 19 other reporters and photographers were escorted out of the building.

It would be kind of a bummer if Nakamoto turns out to be THE Satoshi Nakamoto. From Nathaniel Popper and Rachel Abrams in The New York Times:

“Having this level of mystery allowed people to project their optimism and their hopes onto the currency,” said Richard Peterson, the chief executive of MarketPsych, a research company that has studied virtual currencies. “If it’s true and people start to believe it, it undermines that mystique.”

Also, they report, a person using an account believed by many to belong to THE Satoshi Nakamoto on a Web forum denied being the same person as the Nakamoto Newsweek ID’d.

Whether you believe Nakamoto is THE Satoshi Nakamoto or not requires “you have to believe in a reasonably long series of improbable propositions.” Felix Salmon writes a very good piece of media criticism. As strong as Newsweek’s case appears to be, “the responsible thing to do, from Newsweek’s perspective, would have been to present a thesis, rather than a fact.”

Many people would have believed the theory; others wouldn’t. And lots of us would probably have changed our minds a few times as we weighed the evidence and as Dorian’s own words came out.

But Newsweek didn’t want a theory, it wanted a scoop. And so, faced with what was ultimately only circumstantial evidence, it went ahead and claimed that it had uncovered Satoshi — that, basically, it was 100% certain.

AP got an amazing photo out of the whole thing:

Dorian S. Nakamoto in Los Angeles Thursday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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