Claimed Bitcoin Creator Craig Wright Fails to Prove His Boast

May 2, 2016, 4:29 PM UTC

The community of scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs that are attracted to bitcoin like moths to a flame ignited in a fiery debate on Monday after one of their ilk claimed to be the mysterious founder of the virtual, digital currency. But as the experts have examined the alleged proof, the side of the doubters has grown louder and ever more persuasive.

Australian computer scientist and businessman Craig Wright told the BBC, the Economist, and GQ that he was “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the pseudonymous founder who published an October 2008 paper explaining how to create the bitcoin network.

Each bitcoin is nothing more than a lengthy, unique string of digits that easily can be sent from one person to another, with each transaction recorded and verified in a public log known as the blockchain. The verification process uses computer encryption software that relies on each bitcoin user possessing two digital “keys,” sort of like passwords, but one revealed publicly and the other kept secret.

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In a blog post and to the three news organizations, Wright offered a piece of text encoded with what he said was the private encryption key used to sign the original Satoshi paper and other evidence.

“I didn’t take the decision lightly to make my identity public and I want to be clear that I’m doing this because I care so passionately about my work and also to dispel any negative myths and fears about bitcoin and the Blockchain,” Wright said in a statement that was issued to reporters. “I cannot allow the misinformation that has been spread to impact the future of bitcoin and the Blockchain.”

The three articles contained varying degrees of skepticism, ranging from the BBC’s declaration that Wright had been “revealed” as the creator of bitcoin to the Economist’s warning that “nagging questions remain.”

As is often the case with debunking digital conspiracies, some of the earliest doubts arose on Reddit, where posters pointed out that the text and signature Wright had supplied were actually published as part of the blockchain back in 2009.

In a follow up article on Forbes on Monday, several professors and developers who had examined the proof also expressed doubts. “His blog proves very little,” University of Surrey professor Alan Woodward told the magazine. “He claims to be displaying proof that he has the private key for some early transactions – principally I think he is claiming the first to Hal Finney – but no one seems to be able to decode the key to prove it independently.”

Some expressed their doubts on Twitter. “Inventor of large-scale identity management system fails to convincingly prove his identity,” quipped encryption expert and Johns Hopkins professor Matthew Green.

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Bitcoin initially seemed like a great investment, with the price of each unit skyrocketing to more than $1,000 by 2013. But the volatile price collapsed and dropped below $200 within a year. Now, the cryptocurrency, trading around $443 per bitcoin, appears to be gaining use as a way to move funds around the world with more speed and less cost than traditional currency trading solutions. Lately, the bitcoin community has been split over how to make the system work best.

The Wright case is hardly the first controversy to arise over Satoshi’s true identity. In 2014, Newsweek identified a California man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto as the bitcoin founder. And late last year, several outlets tagged Wright as the founder, a claim which he did not endorse at that time.

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