Buterin Chides Outlet Over Misrepresentation in ‘NSA Bitcoin’ Piece
On June 15th, U.K. news outlet Metro published an article titled “The NSA helped to invent Bitcoin, founder of world’s second largest cryptocurrency Ethereum claims.” No matter how you parse that title, there’s an explicit definiteness to it. But Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has now responded by saying the piece seriously mischaracterizes far-from-definite conjectural comments he made 7 years ago.
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‘Crazy Misrepresentations,’ Says Buterin
Today, June 16th, Vitalik Buterin contended that U.K. publication Metro has misrepresented comments he made in 2011 on bitcointalk.org, the longtime popular Bitcoin forum.
In those commments, Buterin was responding to a user named Bazil, who, within the context of that conversation, previously floated the possibility that Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto had a connection to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA).
“I wouldn’t be surprised if [Satoshi] is actually an American working for the NSA specializing in cryptography,” Bazil wrote on June 2nd, 2011. “Then he got sick of the government’s monetary polices and decided to create bitcoin.”
An interesting theory, of course, but it was — and remains — pure speculation. Three days later, on June 5th, 2011, Buterin responded to Bazil, echoing the possibility:
“Or the NSA itself decided to create Bitcoin. Things as big as megacorps and governments work against themselves all the time, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the NSA has some part in at least supporting it.”
The operative phrase here is “I wouldn’t be too surprised.” Which is what Buterin highlighted today in his clarification tweet to Metro, more than seven years after the comments in question:
More crazy misrepresentations in this article.
* "I wouldn't be surprised" = "10-50% chance", not "claims it's true"
* That bitcointalk post was from 2011. My opinions have obviously changed a lot since then.
— Vitalik "Not giving away ETH" Buterin (@VitalikButerin) June 16, 2018
Accordingly, Buterin noted that, at best, his original comments opined there was a distinct possibility that the NSA was involved in Bitcoin’s creation. But that’s a far cry from the definiteness of Metro’s title “The NSA helped to invent Bitcoin … [Buterin] claims.” The Ethereum co-creator also added that the “bitcointalk post was from 2011. My opinions have obviously changed a lot since then.”
So Metro might have come up with a compelling title for an interesting retroactive discovery. But it wasn’t an accurate one, to say the least.
No Stranger to Calling Out Irresponsible Press Behavior
Buterin made waves earlier this year for declaring his boycott of CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018 conference. At that time, he called the CoinDesk outlet “recklessly complicit” in carelessly boosting crypto giveaway scams, among various other charges.
I am boycotting @coindesk's Consensus 2018 conference this year, and strongly encourage others to do the same. Here is my reasoning why.
1. Coindesk is recklessly complicit in enabling giveaway scams. See their latest article on OMG, which *directly links* to a giveaway scam. pic.twitter.com/WDr9uZ8XOw
— Vitalik "Not giving away ETH" Buterin (@VitalikButerin) April 26, 2018
Other projects like OmiseGo and thought leaders like Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson also partook in the Consensus 2018 boycott. Notable absences, to be sure.
It goes without saying the press bears a responsibility to accurately report the news. Even established titans like The New York Times and The Washington Post have errors here and there. But there’s a difference between honest mistakes and carelessness. It’s the latter kind of journalistic error that the cryptoverse has unfortunately seen time and time again. But there’s hope for increased maturation as time goes on, as all of the various branches of the ecosystem continue to evolve alongside each other.
What’s your take? Does crypto reporting need to mature? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via NPR, Newsweek