Forbes ‘contributors’ are at it again: Borrowing media brands to attack Craig Wright

BTC supporters with access to mainstream media outlets have begun to return fire in the battle against Dr. Craig Wright. Using well-known branded platforms such as Forbes, they continue to attack the character of Bitcoin’s creator and attempt to discredit his vision for what Bitcoin should be.

The latest is a piece by lawyer Hailey Lennon, who previously worked as Regulatory Counsel for exchanges Coinbase and bitFlyer, among others. It was assisted by Preston Byrne, also a lawyer and long-time commentator on blockchain legal issues.

Lennon’s Twitter handle, for the record, is “HaileyLennonBTC.” Byrne’s bio includes the experience “Representation of Twitter user pro bono in defamation action threatened by Satoshi Nakamoto claimant.” You can probably guess the direction the article takes.

The Forbes piece is titled “The Battle to be Satoshi,” and it begins with a summary of Dr. Wright’s “legal misadventures” to date. Calling them “misadventures” and “legal misfortunes” is misleading, since none of them have produced a judgment against Wright.

As we have noted before, Forbes does not have staff journalists covering the Bitcoin and blockchain beat. Rather their “Crypto & Blockchain” section relies on (mostly unpaid) guest contributors who have something to say. Dr. Wright has himself railed against the “fake news” this arrangement permits.

Lennon/Byrne’s article makes the point again that Dr. Wright registered the copyright for the Bitcoin white paper in 2019, and that his being granted the registration doesn’t prove he was the paper’s original author. He would need to prove that in court in order to defend the claim.

This is most likely what Dr. Wright is planning to do. He knows as well as everyone else that a claim is only a claim until a court, based on evidence presented, backs it up. This is not a strategy to bully small targets into complying or paying up, like the “IP troll” cases many in BTC are claiming this is. Dr. Wright clearly feels he does have evidence to back up his claim to be behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym, and that this evidence is solid enough to stand up in such a forum.

Lennon does admit one point: “There is a chance Wright does own these rights, though we think that chance is a small one (a judicial fact-finder will be in a better position to determine this). We don’t know, we weren’t there when the Bitcoin White Paper was written, and if we had been, there’s a good possibility we’d be sipping mojitos in Tahiti right now instead of practicing law.”

However she then continues to describe Dr. Wright’s actions as “the latest in a series of opportunistic lawsuits commenced by Wright over the years designed to force the world to acknowledge his claim to the identity and legacy of Satoshi Nakamoto…”

Perhaps “force” is what’s necessary at this stage, if Wright actually is Satoshi. He has definitely made several attempts to present his claim in less forceful ways over the years, only to meet with a barrage of derision and character assassinations from the BTC world.

Lennon says Dr. Wright could easily prove his identity of Satoshi Nakamoto “by signing a message with one of Satoshi’s private keys” but has not done so  (this is a technical rather than a legal opinion).

Wright has not signed with Satoshi’s keys in public—but then, neither has anyone else. If a “real” Satoshi other than Dr. Wright exists, he/she appears in no mood to disprove Wright’s claims by signing a message either. The absence of any credible alternative-Satoshi since 2015 is a sticking point for BTC supporters, so usually they don’t mention it. Possibly “Satoshi” doesn’t actually have access to Satoshi’s keys anymore. If that’s possible, then it’s also possible Dr. Wright doesn’t either. Pundits can only speculate on the topic.

There are a few other howlers:

According to Lennon, Wright created “a fork of a fork of Bitcoin called “Bitcoin Satoshi Vision” which claims to solve Bitcoin’s scalability issues by increasing the maximum block size to two gigabytes—the software engineering equivalent of saying that you can increase the maximum weight limit of a 5-ton bridge by driving 20-ton trucks over it.”

Are we still having the “Bitcoin scaling debate” in 2021? Putting aside that ridiculous analogy for a moment, BSV has proven time and time again that large transaction blocks are possible, even easy, to process. In fact, BSV has remained so free of technical hitches that its continued existence must be an embarrassment to everyone who took the “small blocker” side in that years-long debate. Which makes it hardly surprising they continue to try and discredit it in other ways.

The article also suggests Dr. Wright is using “lawfare,” use “judicially enforced legitimacy” of his Satoshi claims, and “force (people) to use his preferred vision, BSV.”

The strong language, including repeated use of the word “force” suggests Wright’s tactics are illegitimate. But once again, if Wright’s claims are true then having them publicly mocked for years would be an injustice in itself. No one would begrudge him using ever-stronger methods to prove them. If you held the truth but found yourself discredited by a loud majority, you’d probably be in the mood to drag them kicking and screaming to see it too.

Opinions… everyone’s got one

That lawyers, even those seasoned in the blockchain industry, can have differing opinions on the merits of a particular case is obvious. However it doesn’t mean they’re right, or that their argument will prevail in court. After all, that’s why we have courts—so both sides can present their arguments for a judge/jury to decide.

Many feel Forbes and other mainstream outlets have diluted their brands by lending their name to “blogger” sections—and they have—but the public needs to be aware that writers usually use these platforms and their famous names to lend authority to their own views. Forbes’ large reach and readership doesn’t hurt either.

Some borrow big-name media brands to promote their legitimacy, others use courts and lawyers. Both are tactics, though the latter has more impact.

“In a courtroom, talk is cheap,” writes Lennon. It isn’t really, since making false statements under oath has serious consequences. It’s far cheaper in the Forbes blogger section, though, where no judgment is necessary. It’s just more trial by social media. 

Watch Dr. Craig Wright tell Ryan X. Charles the background of Bitcoin.org and as they use the Way Back Machine to prove the Satoshi PGP key changed in 2011:

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.