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Craig Wright Backs Away from Bitcoin Creation Claims

Earlier this week, Australian entrepreneur Craig White claimed he was the creator of the digital currency Bitcoin.  Reuters noted on Friday that in the face of mounting skepticism, Wright has declared he will not provide any further evidence to back up his claim:

Although Wright did not retract his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto – the name, assumed to be pseudonymous, of the person or group who created Bitcoin in 2008 – Wright’s about-turn is understood by many Bitcoin experts as confirmation the claims were false.

“I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me,” Wright wrote. “But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.”

What makes this particularly interesting is that Wright supposedly presented convincing proof to Bitcoin lead developer Gavin Andresen and Bitcoin consultant Jon Matonis, prompting them to write blog posts on Monday endorsing his claims.

Wright promised to provide “independently verifiable documents and evidence” to validate his claims to the rest of the world, but not only has he retracted that promise, he apparently deleted the blog post in which he made it.

Reuters quotes a few skeptics, including another lead Bitcoin developer, Peter Todd, who said Wright was “significantly less likely to be Satoshi than any other person that’s been suggested.”

Digital currency advocate Jerry Brito of Coin Center said it would be “foolish” to give Wright’s claims “much weight,” noting that he’s “provided no cryptographic evidence verifiable by the public, and many of his answers sound plain fishy.”

Ars Technica says that Wright’s claims were “debunked by experts within hours, who noted that his Satoshi signature was actually a 2009 signature he copied from the blockchain.”

According to the BBC, Wright had been planning a master stroke that would have involved “moving some of the virtual currency from one of its early address blocks, an act many believe can only be done by the tech’s creator.”

After he changed his mind, Wright wiped out the website he had created for Bitcoin blog posts, replacing all of its content with a farewell message:

I’m Sorry

I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

When the rumors began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this.

I know that this weakness will cause great damage to those that have supported me, and particularly to Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen. I can only hope that their honour and credibility is not irreparably tainted by my actions. They were not deceived, but I know that the world will never believe that now. I can only say I’m sorry.

And goodbye.

For their part, Matonis and Andresen sound like they might still be convinced by the evidence Wright gave them in private.

Andresen told Wired he was “still convinced he’s Satoshi despite the really weird proof he’s put in his blog post,” while also admitting “it’s certainly possible I was bamboozled.”

Matonis said on Twitter, “There won’t be an on-chain signing from early bitcoin blocks, but there also won’t be another Satoshi,” which the BBC notes would strongly suggest Matonis believes Wright is the genuine article.

The most charitable explanation for Wright’s behavior would be that he realized the verifiable documents he planned to offer would legally injure him in some way, or expose his privacy.  He could also have decided the mystique of Satoshi should not be conclusively shattered.  Or, as some skeptics cited by Ars Technica charged, he’s emotionally unstable, or just a plain old “con artist.”

Somewhere out there in the deep shadows of the Internet, someone named Satoshi Nakamoto may, or may not, be smiling, or weeping, or counting the precious original-issue Bitcoin stashed in a memory block only he can access.

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