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Newsweek could get sued for its dubious Bitcoin scoop

The media gathered outside Dorian Nakamoto's home on March 7, the day Newsweek named him as Bitcoin's creator.
The media gathered outside Dorian Nakamoto's home on March 7, the day Newsweek named him as Bitcoin's creator.

Back in March, Newsweek published what would have been one of the year's biggest technology scoops. An article by Leah McGrath Goodman claimed to have unmasked Satoshi Nakamoto, the reclusive — and likely pseudonymous — genius who invented Bitcoin. Goodman pointed to an elderly Japanese-American engineer named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto who was living in Southern California.

Dorian vehemently denied any connection to Bitcoin, and Goodman's story — based overwhelmingly on circumstantial evidence, quickly crumbled. Yet Newsweek refused to admit that the story, which appeared on the cover of its first print edition under new ownership — was wrong.

The Bitcoin community saw the Newsweek article — which revealed intimate details of his personal life and quoted family members making unflattering comments about him — as a serious invasion of an elderly man's privacy. They quickly raised more than $20,000 to help him cover personal expenses. And now, Dorian's law firm has has created a website to raise more funds to file a lawsuit against Newsweek.

"A lawsuit against Newsweek will be very expensive," the website, created by the law firm of Kirschner and Associates, says. "Dorian does not have the resources to pay the costs of such a suit, let alone attorneys' fees. Monies raised by the Fund will be used to further Dorian's legal claims against Newsweek; anything remaining will be given directly to Dorian for his expenses."

Why would the Bitcoin community donate to support Dorian's lawsuit? Many in the Bitcoin community see the Newsweek's story as a symptom of the mainstream media's clumsy treatment of Bitcoin more generally. Bitcoin is a complex, technical subject; it has been widely misunderstood and even mocked by mainstream journalists.

Some Bitcoin fans see Goodman's bumbling investigation — she cites Dorian's skill machining parts for model trains as evidence that he had the engineering prowess to create Bitcoin, for examples — as a particularly egregious case of Bitcoin-related journalistic malpractice. They may be willing to contribute in order to hold the magazine accountable in court.

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