Will the Real Satoshi Nakamoto Please Stand Up?

Two weeks ago, Newsweek published an article claiming to have identified and located the man behind Bitcoin, a digital currency introduced to the world in 2009. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority, and enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere, across the network. The cryptocurrency has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is now accepted by a number of large retailers, such as Overstock.com.

The original proposal and software was published under the name of “Satoshi Nakamoto,” which many believe to be a pseudonym. The identity of Bitcoin’s founder has been elusive since the beginning. For example, Bitcoin’s chief scientist, Gavin Andresen, had worked closely with Nakamoto for years developing the technology, but their interaction has been solely digital: Andresen has never met Nakamoto, nor has he ever spoken to him over the phone. The father of Bitcoin became even more mysterious in the spring of 2011, when Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared completely.

When Leah McGrath Goodman’s story, claiming to have found “The Face Behind Bitcoin,” hit the cover of Newsweek on March 6, 2014, the world was in an uproar. The article received international attention and criticism, as did Ms. Goodman herself. Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man featured in the article, has denied the allegations.

Goodman’s story details a search for any living Satoshi Nakamoto that might fit the role of Bitcoin founder. She settled on Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old Japanese-American man living in Temple City, California. Nakamoto has a background in engineering, and statements from family members hint that—or so it seemed to Goodman—he is the real Satoshi Nakamoto. In her story, Goodman claims that Nakamoto responded to her initial inquiries by 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.”

In his statements to the public, however, Nakamoto has categorically denied any involvement with the Bitcoin enterprise. In an interview with The Associated Press, given the same day the Newsweek article was published, Nakamoto claimed that he had never heard of Bitcoin until his son told him about being contacted by Goodman three weeks earlier. He also denied making the statement quoted in Goodman’s article.

“Newsweek’s false report has been the source of a great deal of confusion and stress for myself, my 93-year old mother, my siblings, and their families.”

Yesterday, Nakamoto made a written statement denying the allegations, published by Reuters Blogger Felix Salmon. The validity of the text was confirmed by Mr. Nakamoto’s attorney. In his statement, Nakamoto explains that he has a background in engineering, but that he could not find work as a programmer for over a decade. He also highlights the personal issues he has been experiencing in recent years, including health problems and “severe financial distress.” In the letter, Nakamoto explains that he has retained legal counsel and requests that the public respect his privacy: “Newsweek’s false report has been the source of a great deal of confusion and stress for myself, my 93-year old mother, my siblings, and their families.” One can imagine that further legal action will be taken.

Since the date of the original publication, Newsweek has made a statement supporting the article and standing behind its reporter. However, the magazine has yet to respond to Nakamoto’s most recent denial.