Newsweek's first big cover story in its new print era, "The Face Behind Bitcoin," has a few problems. For starters, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man identified as the "face," denies having anything to do with the cryptocurrency. He told the Associated Press yesterday that Newsweek's reporter Leah McGrath Goodman misunderstood his less-than-perfect English, leading her to write that he was no longer involved in Bitcoin, when he only meant that he was no longer an engineer. ("I got nothing to do with it," he told the AP multiple times.) Newsweek editor Jim Impoco told Gawker yesterday that the mag stands by Goodman's story, but today, he's singing a slightly different tune.
In a post on the website, Newsweek editors write, "The facts as reported point toward Nakamoto’s role in the founding of Bitcoin." That sounds a little different than "We stand by the story." Facts may point toward a conclusion but not confirm one. The editors then "[encourage] fellow members of the press and the public at large to focus on analysis of the facts at hand rather than rush to assumptions or resort to emotion." Unfortunately, it's typically the job of the reporter and the outlet to fully analyze the facts at hand before going to print.
This is not to say that Nakamoto didn't found Bitcoin — it's possible he's lying. But as many journalists and Bitcoin experts have pointed out, Goodman's case isn't as strong as she made it out to be. Reuters' Felix Salmon writes today,
Even within Goodman’s piece ... there are reasons to doubt her thesis. And in the wake of Nakamoto’s interview with the AP, there are more. His lack of fluency in English is clearly real; he has a credible explanation for the words he said in front of Goodman; and he has a guilelessness to him which would be very hard to fake, especially over the course of many hours with a skeptical reporter.
So what now? Well, former Newsweek editor Tina Brown had some kind words for Impoco and team on Bloomberg TV this morning: "All I can think of is I'm so glad I'm not the editor of Newsweek."
In the meantime, Bitcoin Redditors are raising money for Nakamoto, whether he's the founder or not.
Many are already donating, hoping that Nakamoto will use the funds for a "free lunch" or a "new train." (Nakamoto is a model train enthusiast.)
Goodman hasn't responded to critics on Twitter since yesterday.
Update, 2:10 pm: That may be because she just got doxxed by 4chan users. In retaliation against Goodman for sharing Nakamoto's personal identity, 4chan users dumped all of Goodman's personal info online, including her cell phone number and address.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.