Few mysteries in the tech world surpass that of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin whose identity has not been discovered more than a decade after cryptocurrencies took off. So, when a Twitter account with the handle @Satoshi and calling itself “Satoshi Nakamoto” posted a tweet this week, it caused a bit of a stir.
“Bitcoin is a predicate machine. Over the following months, we shall explore different aspects that were not explicitly contained within the white paper,” the account tweeted on Monday. “These aspects are all parts of bitcoin, and are important. Some of these ideas were touched upon in the early years; now is the time to extrapolate and explain.”
The tweet was the @Satoshi account’s first since 2018—at that time, it posted the entire Bitcoin white paper—and instantly gained wide attention. At the time of writing, it has over 8,000 retweets and over 18,000 likes. But as with most things involving crypto and its pseudonymous creator, things are anything but clear-cut. In fact, there’s virtually no chance that the tweet came from the real Satoshi Nakamoto, and the possible identity of the person who did post it is a rabbit hole in its own right.
The @Satoshi tweet immediately picked up a community note claiming that the tweet was written by Craig Wright, an Australian man who has for years claimed to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto despite never presenting incontrovertible evidence. Motherboard has written about Wright’s debunked claims over the years and even spoken to him, including once when he sent us a photo of a luxurious-looking airplane bathroom in an effort to show he’s not bothered by people denying he’s Nakamoto. Despite a lack of concrete evidence and early supporters eventually backpedaling—including, this week, the former CEO of Wright’s blockchain company nChain—Wright maintains that he invented Bitcoin and has continued to build business ventures around the claim.
Right now, it’s impossible to say with certainty that Wright wrote the @Satoshi tweet, but here’s what we know: A Twitter user named Andy Rowe has long claimed to be involved with both the @Satoshi handle and with Wright.
“On the ten year anniversary of the #Bitcoin white paper I tweeted it out in its entirety from the @satoshi handle on @DrCSWright’s behalf,” Rowe tweeted in 2022. Rowe’s Twitter bio currently states “@DrCSWright is @satoshi” and his timeline is filled with Wright quotes and support for the man, his claim to the mantle of Satoshi, and the cryptocurrency he founded: Bitcoin SV, which stands for “Satoshi’s Vision.”
When reached for comment, Rowe only sent Motherboard a tweet he posted in the wake of the @Satoshi account’s post: “I cannot speak to the operation of the @satoshi handle since the account’s reinstatement other than to say that I am proud of the role I played for the duration of 2018, and honoured to have posted the white paper on its 10 year anniversary,” the tweet said.
Christen Ager-Hanssen, the former nChain CEO who recently left the company, said in a tweet that “That [@Satoshi] account has been taken over by Craig,” and was previously owned by Rowe. On Sunday, Ager-Hanssen posted an alleged internal email from an nChain executive who said they believe Wright is likely to lose ongoing legal fights related to his Satoshi Nakamoto claim.
In a previous lawsuit in the UK, where Wright sued Bitcoin pundit Peter McCormack for libel after he called Wright a “liar” and a “moron,” Wright was only granted nominal damages amounting to $1.26 due to what the court called his “lies and deception” due to presenting false evidence.
In another extremely convoluted US lawsuit, the estate of a deceased programmer who had a business relationship with Wright sued him for Nakamoto’s untouched hoard of bitcoins valued in the billions of dollars. A judge in that case slammed Wright for presenting documents that were falsely backdated and called his story “inconceivable.” The jury sided with Wright on all counts but one, ordering him to pay over $100 million in damages for intellectual property theft while not making any legal determination on his claim to being Satoshi Nakamoto. That may have been auspicious—if Wright had lost the case in its entirety, he would have had to prove he controlled Nakamoto’s bitcoins.
Again, it’s unclear if Wright did in fact write the @Satoshi account’s latest tweet. There are other things to consider as well; for example, the account registered for paid verification on Twitter last month, which involves using a credit card. It beggars belief that the real Satoshi Nakamoto—who, if they are even alive, is clearly extremely privacy-oriented and unlikely to reveal their identity by using the normal financial system—would simply hook up a credit card to Twitter in order to get verified.
nChain did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. In a blog post, the company said that it would be examining materials sent to it by Ager-Hanssen documenting his concerns and would not comment until this review was completed.