Tina Brown on Newsweek's Bitcoin mess: "I'm so glad I'm not the editor"

Were we duped? Someone claiming to be the "real" creator of Bitcoin says he is not the man ID'ed by the newsweekly

By Sarah Gray
March 7, 2014 11:30PM (UTC)
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Tina Brown likes to mix high and low culture.

Yesterday, in a long article for the relaunch of Newsweek, reporter Leah McGrath Goodman claimed that Dorian S. Nakamoto is the super-secretive mastermind behind Bitcoin. The reactions to Newsweek's revelation of the so-called man behind the curtain of the virtual cryptocurrency have been swift and ever-changing.

It began with the Internet's thrill over such a revelation coming from a publication that faced near extinction. Reporters too were whipped up into a frenzy, stalking the 64-year-old Dorian S. Nakamoto outside his Temple City, Calif., house and following him to a restaurant (resulting in the hashtag #bitcoinchase). And as Dorian S. Nakamoto denied being the founder (telling Los Angeles Times reporter Andrea Chang, “No no no I was never involved”), the skepticism set in. Here are the updates you need to know:

  • Last night Bitcoin Foundation said, "As of this writing, we have seen zero conclusive evidence that the identified person is the designer of Bitcoin."
  • According to TechCrunch an entity named Satoshi Nakamoto posted, "I am not Dorian Nakamoto," on P2P Foundation's Ning page. Of course, nobody knows if the poster is in fact the "real" Bitcoin founder, but the email address of the user is according to an email to TechCrunch from P2P Foundation, "[T]he registered email address on the account on our ning network is xxxxx@xxx.com which is the same one mentioned in the original [bitcoin] paper."

Questions of journalistic ethics were also raised:

  • New York University journalism professor Adam Penenberg, who is known for his work in outing the fabricated stories of Stephen Glass, tweeted: “High risk, high reward, disastrous if you're wrong. Putting it on the cover with such flimsy proof was a poor editorial decision.”
  • Former Newsweek editor Tina Brown tacitly agrees, telling Bloomberg TV that if Newsweek was wrong that would be “rough.” According to Capital New York, Brown also said, "All I can think of is I'm so glad I'm not the editor of Newsweek." She is, however, supportive of the magazine's relaunch into print.
  • Regardless, Newsweek’s editor Jim Impoco told Gawker that the magazine is “Standing by our story.”

The story remains nebulous at best. The opening scene of Goodman's article quotes Dorian S. Nakamoto saying, "I am no longer involved in that 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," which does lead one to believe that he may have previously been involved. The world may never know.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Innovation Newsweek Satoshi Nakamoto Technology Tina Brown