Cue the Ominous Music – Begun, the Crypto Court War Has
After years of confining their battles mainly to the social media, PR and investment arenas, some of the crypto industry’s most colorful individuals may finally head to court to have their cases tried by real-world judges. At least one media outlet has published an apology to Bitcoin SV backer Calvin Ayre, meanwhile new battles look set to open on other fronts from Dr. Craig Wright and John McAfee.
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The current dramas cover a number of disparate topics, and have all been brewing for some time. However they are now escalating in attempts to settle matters in the real world.
Dispute #1: Craig Wright Vs. Crypto Twitter
A few weeks ago, and shortly before his @ProfFaustus account was reportedly removed from Twitter, nChain chief scientist Dr. Craig Wright had threatened to bring defamation suits against those calling him a “fraud”, or suggesting he is not Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright’s many nemeses on social media responded by re-posting their allegations with glee, and challenging Wright to take action. Earlier this week, they began to have their wishes fulfilled as British law firm SCA ONTIER began mailing letters to Twitter users demanding retractions and apologies — and promising court action if the demands were not met.
One such recipient was Peter McCormack, host of the “What Bitcoin Did” podcast. McCormack’s letter, which he immediately posted on Twitter, accuse him of a “campaign of harassment and libel” against Wright. It read:
“We act for Dr. Craig Wright, the computer scientist and businessman. Dr. Wright was part of the team that created Bitcoin. He is the person behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.”
It demanded that McCormack preserve any documents that may be relevant to the matter; delete any posts or publications that alleged Wright’s Satoshi claims were fraudulent; agree not to repeat them, tweet an apology and “join in a statement in open court in which you apologize to our client and acknowledge the falsity of the allegations”.
McCormack signaled his intention to not comply with any of the demands, and in fact doubled down on his opinions. Ontier’s deadline expires on April 23rd, 2019.
Selling everything in this photo to raise money for Hodlonaut's legal defence:
– Liverpool mug, tea stained $50
– Craig Wright is a Fraud t-shirt $100
– Calvin and friends framed photo $250
– Half eaten pack of hobnobs $25
Serious offers only. Will match donations. https://t.co/EiwfzuqGiM
— Peter McCormack (@PeterMcCormack) April 13, 2019
Wright has also issued a $5,000 USD bounty for information on the real identity of the person behind the former @Hodlonaut Twitter account, which had repeatedly made similar statements. The account disappeared from Twitter soon after, amid howls of outrage from the crypto Twitterati over what they said amounted to “doxxing”. Many changed their Twitter avatars and display names to match @Hodlonaut’s an a gesture of support.
The legal moves proved too much for Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (a.k.a. “CZ”), who added his own name to the “not-Satoshi” claims and threatened to delist Bitcoin SV if the campaign continued. Binance is the world’s largest digital asset exchange by trade volumes.
Craig Wright is not Satoshi.
Anymore of this sh!t, we delist! https://t.co/hrnt3fDACq
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) April 12, 2019
Dispute #2 Calvin Ayre Vs. Crypto Media, John McAfee
The second dispute concerns online gambling mogul and blockchain investor Calvin Ayre, who is also a major backer for nChain and Bitcoin SV, and operates a number of online media operations including CoinGeek and Calvin Ayre Media.
Though not directly related to Wright’s legal campaign, it is similar in that Ayre is also represented by SCA ONTIER and had previously threatened to respond to his online accusers with real legal action.
The issue stems from a Calvin Ayre tweet in mid March 2019, which many wrongly interpreted as depicting Ayre partying in Cuba with a group of underage female dancers. Many of them extrapolated on what the images could mean, and accused Ayre of more serious and illegal conduct.
Ayre protested the accusations vigorously, providing further pictures of the women involved to show their ages more clearly, and claiming they had been harassed by Cuban authorities and suffered hardships as a result.
On April 12th, we saw some of the first results: Crypto news outlet CoinRivet published a statement apologizing for running a report alleging Ayre had engaged in unlawful relationships with underage girls, and had been referred to agencies in both Canada and Cuba over the matter.
CoinRivet’s statement acknowledged the allegations were “completely untrue” and that “there are no grounds to suspect (Ayre) of child abuse.” It also posted the statement as a video, removed its previous articles on the topic, and “agreed to pay Mr. Ayre substantial damages for libel”. It will also join a statement in the English High Court as part of its settlement.
Ayre claims others have also settled out of court, and had been made to pay his legal fees. He has taunted his opponents with photos of him purportedly enjoying their money:
Can not stop enjoying the rewards of troll hunting 😎🍷 pic.twitter.com/bRTYAvAFd3
— Calvin Ayre (@CalvinAyre) April 12, 2019
McAfee Leaps in… Twice
Fellow online mogul and crypto investor John McAfee, also known for his hard partying lifestyle, first entered the fray with what appeared to be a friendly word of “advice from the King of Badass” for Ayre over what should and should not be posted online.
Ayre took McAfee’s very public advice as a form of attack, and fired back with a reference to McAfee’s 2012 troubles with law enforcement in Belize. The police, which McAfee has said were acting on orders from a corrupt local government, wanted to question him over alleged involvement in the murder of a neighbor.
The two then engaged in a heated Twitter to-and-fro that lasted for days and became increasingly hostile, with each man’s supporters joining in from the sidelines.
On April 14th, McAfee issued a legal threat of his own, saying he was suing Ayre for $800 million and “will bankrupt him” via actions against his assets in various countries. It referenced the CoinRivet apology:
CoinRivet sued by Calvin Ayre. I'm suing Calvin for $800 mil. Calvin stated that I committed murder. Completely unsubstantiable. Cuba is a Civil Law country – making lawsuits diffucult. However, I traced his assets to other countries. I will bankrupt him. https://t.co/BubOuoZLxI
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) April 13, 2019
Court Could Be a Better Place for Dispute Resolution than Twitter
Ayre’s party images might not have been the best optics for Bitcoin SV’s government/enterprise-friendly marketing, but they were not posted alongside any BSV branding and did not depict any illegal activity. Additionally, no law enforcement agency has taken any action against him over it, suggesting they too saw no wrongdoing.
Nor, for the record, has McAfee’s involvement in any murder been tried or proven. As for Wright, his claims since 2015 to be Bitcoin’s original creator have been neither proven nor disproved.
Facts surrounding all of these matters may finally emerge if and when these cases head to courts. Another case that could bring new information to light is already underway between Wright and the estate of fellow early Bitcoin participant Dave Kleiman, who died in April 2013.
Though distasteful to many who’d like to see Bitcoin and crypto present a more professional face to regulators and investors, formal legal proceedings may prove a necessary evil in removing them from the free-for-all of social media. No doubt they will continue for a while before any arbitrator representing a higher authority makes a decision.
What role do social media flame wars play in building, or damaging, Bitcoin’s reputation? Let’s hear your thoughts.
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