Who can say who is not Satoshi? Hodlonaut and Wright go to the test to find out

OSLO, Norway – Hodlonaut and Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist who has long claimed to be the pseudonym creator of Bitcoin, will face off in an Oslo courtroom on Monday to settle a years-long legal dispute.

The 7-day trial seeks to determine whether a series of tweets from Hodlonaut in March 2019 – in which he wrote that Wright’s claims of being Satoshi Nakamoto were false and called him a scammer and a scammer – are protected from free speech in Norway. .

The lawsuit, filed by Hodlonaut, is one of two simultaneous lawsuits between the two men on the tweets. Wright also sued Hodlonaut (known in real life as Magnus Granath, but more commonly known in the crypto sphere under his pseudonym) in the UK. If Hodlonaut emerged victorious in Norway, Wright would not be able to collect defamation damages in relation to the tweets in the UK.

Hodlonaut is far from the only person to question Wright’s claims of being Satoshi Nakamoto: Wright has been largely discreditedlargely due to his refusal – or inability – to offer hard evidence that he is Satoshi.

Nor is Hodlonaut the first to face legal action for speaking out against Wright. Just last month, a verdict was joined in a similar defamation lawsuit brought by Wright against podcaster Peter McCormack, who in 2019 called Wright a liar and a scammer.

Although a British court found McCormack’s claims caused “serious damage” to Wright’s reputation, Wright was penalized for providing the judge with “deliberately false evidence” and awarded a single British pound in compensation.

The lawsuit against Craig Wright explained

The trial in Norway, initiated by Hodlonaut, aims at a declaratory ruling (essentially a legally binding determination by a judge) that his tweets were protected by free speech, as required by the Norwegian constitution.

If Hodlonaut wins the lawsuit, it would prevent another simultaneous libel suit initiated by Craig Wright against Hodlonaut in United Kingdom from moving forward.

Hodlonaut filed the Norwegian lawsuit in May 2019, after receiving a legal notice from Wright’s attorneys via Twitter two months earlier. The notice required that Hodlonaut “delete all tweets and other online or other postings in which [he] claimed that [Wright] he had fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, “as well as tweeting a statement – written by Wright’s lawyers – apologizing to Wright and” accepting “him as the creator of Bitcoin.

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In April 2019, Wright supporters placed a $ 5,000 bounty on Hodlonaut’s real-life identity, which was not known at the time. According to Hodlonaut, Wright’s attorneys petitioned Twitter to reveal his identity, while bounty hunters and private investigators simultaneously worked to doxr him.

By mid-May of that year, Hodlonaut was denounced as Magnus Granath after a private investigator posing as a police officer convinced his employer to hand over his phone number and other personal information. (Note: CoinDesk takes doxxing very seriously. We weighed the benefits of using Hodlonaut’s real name in our coverage of this case and ultimately decided that since his name is a matter of public domain in a litigation in course, it made sense to include it – and the details of how it was discovered – in our coverage).

Anticipating a Wright lawsuit, Hodlonaut filed his participation for declaratory judgment three days after being doxxed. Less than a month later, Hodlonaut’s fears were confirmed when Wright’s legal team filed a libel suit against him in the UK.

Over the twisted course of the next two years, both Wright and Hodlonaut filed petitions to dismiss each other’s lawsuits, all of which were ultimately unsuccessful (and costly).

Unintended consequences

The legal battle also had unwanted consequences outside of its impact on Wright and Hodlonaut’s lives: it also led to a wave of exchanges that removed BSV (Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision), the native token of Wright’s fork of Bitcoin. .

After the bounty was awarded to Hodlonaut’s identity, Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao tweeted “Craig Wright is not Satoshi. More of this shit! t, we delete!

Two days after his Twitter threat, CZ tweeted: “Craig Wright is [a] fraud … the real Satoshi can digitally sign any message to prove it. This is as simple as breathing for him / her. And we have the pub[lic] key. Until then, everyone is Satoshi, except Craig Wright!

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On April 15, 2019, three days after CZ’s initial threat, BSV was deleted from Binance.

The next day, Kraken announced that he would follow suit by removing BSV from listing.

“The team behind Bitcoin SV has engaged in behavior that is completely antithetical to everything we stand for at Kraken and the wider cryptocurrency community,” the company wrote in a statement. print announcement. “It started with fraudulent claims, which resulted in threats and lawsuits, with the BSV team suing a number of people who came out against them. The threats made to individual community members last week were the last straw. “

Slapping the critics

Wright’s libel suit against Hodlonaut is widely regarded be a SLAPP (short for “strategic lawsuits against public participation”) lawsuit intended to intimidate and censor both Hodlonaut and future critics from publicly opposing Wright.

Financially backed by online gambling mogul Calvin Ayre, who claims to be a billionaire, Wright has the means to pursue financially onerous – and for many people, impossible – litigation against.

Ayre spoke about it openly: in April 2019, him tweeted“There is no need to sue everyone, just waiting for a volunteer to fail trying to prove a negative and then letting Craig show the proof. Who will this idiot be?”

Wright avoided similar lawsuits against outspoken critics with deeper pockets, including Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, who has openly and repeatedly called Wright a scammer.

The Bitcoin community has rallied around Hodlonaut, raising funds for its legal defense through donations and auctions. At the time of publication, 70.7 bitcoins (at press time worth approximately $ 1.5 million) had been donatedalong with $ 64,000 in fiat donations from over 2,500 donors.

Although Wright has reason to sue Hodlonaut in the UK – he has been a resident of London since 2015 – a more cynical interpretation of Wright’s choice of location is that he is far more likely to win a libel case there than in Norway or anywhere else.

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Due to its strict libel laws which place the burden of proof on the accused rather than the plaintiff, the UK is famous for being the world capital of “libel tourism”. Journalists and media personalities have historically state targeted as a politician leaderswealthy companies and individuals.

With more money and without the burden of denying their critics, the plaintiffs Generally win – often resulting in substantial verdicts for the plaintiffs and, for the country, a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

A history of litigation

Wright’s double libel suits against Hodlonaut and McCormack aren’t his first foray into court.

His claims of being Satoshi Nakamoto have been followed by a series of lawsuits, in which Wright is often the plaintiff and occasionally the defendant.

His propensity to sue Bitcoin developers (demanding, among other things, that they give him access to funds stolen in the infamous Mt. Gox hack) and hosting groups Bitcoin’s online white paper led Block founder and CEO Jack Dorsey to create a non-profit legal defense fund earlier this year.

In 2020, Block created the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) and teamed up with other tech companies, including Meta, to pool patents and preserve the industry’s open source ethics.

In 2021 COPA filed a lawsuit against Wright for his attempts to copyright the Bitcoin white paper.

Last year, Wright also confronted Ira Kleiman – the brother of Wright’s friend Dave Kleiman – who sued him in a Miami court over ownership of Satoshi’s bitcoin. While the jury to found that Wright and Kleiman were not business partners, and that Wright did not owe his assets any bitcoin (which he was unable to prove ownership of anyway), he was sentenced to pay $ 100 million in damages for the conversion (a type of theft) of intellectual property.

When CoinDesk asked Vel Freedman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, how much of that $ 100 million Wright has paid to the Kleiman estate so far, 9 months after the verdict was issued, Freedman replied:

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