Blockstream CEO Adam Back
Blockstream CEO Adam Back. CoinDesk

It has been a week since YouTuber Barely Sociable publicly released his “Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” documentary.

We wanted to follow the aftermath and summarise community opinions over a long period of time. However, despite this being the most thoroughly researched piece of Satoshi Nakamoto-related investigative journalism, and despite the fact that it came out at a time when Bitcoin has already become a household name (in stark contrast to crypto’s popularity in 2014), interest in the author’s work seems to be surprisingly low, especially compared to previous low effort outings. Therefore, we have decided to publish our summary early.

For those who have yet to watch the documentary, here it is:

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Bitcoin - Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto

The unmasking

The video details many of the events which led to the victory of the small block movement during the scaling battles. It then attempts to make sense of some of the more peculiar circumstances by declaring small block thought leader Adam Back as Satoshi. The assumption is based on the following pieces of evidence:

  • Adam Back technically described how bitcoin could work as early as 1998.
  • He is (presumably) the only public figure in the space that decided not to publish his correspondence with Satoshi.
  • He has had an active academic career, with a peculiar gap around the time when Bitcoin was being developed.
  • Numerous insignificantly small pieces of circumstantial evidence that add up (place of birth, writing style, the tendency to embed political statements in code).
  • He has publicly stated that despite being made aware of Bitcoin in its very early days, he was not interested in it until much later. “Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” makes a very compelling argument that this was not the case:
    • Back’s initial postings on bitcointalk.org reveal some familiarity with obscure bugs that were fixed during early development.
    • His official stance means that he willingly ignored an invention that he himself envisioned almost a decade ago, before later trying to exaggerate his publicly-known contributions by claiming that Bitcoin is merely “hashcash with added inflation control”.

Obviously, definitive proof of who Satoshi Nakamoto is impossible to produce, unless the inventor of Bitcoin himself decides to go public (and provides verifiable cryptographic proof). So plausible deniability is always an option for any outed candidate, which is exactly the response that Adam Back went with.

That said, unlike previous attempts to find the identity of Bitcoin’s creator, such as the Dorian Nakamoto outing, the Paul le Roux speculation and the series of fabrications and lies by another popular community figure, this particular documentary made a strong case. This fact, combined with the exponential increase in popularity since 2014 (when Dorian Nakamoto was harassed by journalists) would have one expect that the video will go viral. It didn’t.

The reactions

The response of the fractured Bitcoin community was tragicomically predictable. To summarise the reactions of the most popular discussion channels:

  • /r/bitcoin outright banned the video and did not allow it to be discussed.
  • Bitcointalk.org and crypto Twitter barely acknowledged it, giving more attention to a J.K. Rowling tweet.
  • /r/cryptocurrency suppressed it with downvotes making sure that barely any discussion can be had on the subject there as well.
  • /r/btc allowed uncensored discussion, but not before marking the video submission as “vote manipulated”. The following discussion was heavy on the straw man arguments, for example a top submission on the subreddit implied that Adam Back’s tendency to use double spacing was somehow the video’s main talking point.

Most of the popular crypto publications decided to cover the story. However, QuadrigaCX claims and Telegram’s TON token received significantly more exposure there.

In addition, YouTuber Tone Vays decided to make a rebuttal stream, which barely acknowledged the main talking points of the documentary, instead opting for almost every logical fallacy that has ever been documented. Despite Barely Sociable’s presence in the live chat room at the time, he was not allowed on stream for a debate. Instead the creator of “Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto” had to resort to making a rebuttal of the rebuttal, which itself was mostly an emotional response filled with profanities. Still, if anyone is interested in seeing it, it has been uploaded to his side channel:

Responding To Jimmy Song and Tone Vays "Debunking" Unmasking Satoshi Nakamoto - Livestream

The follow-up drama on twitter shows an interesting phenomenon – one of crypto’s most popular influencers is receiving significantly less likes to his twitter posts than the profanity-filled responses of Barely Sociable, who only recently began uploading YouTube videos:

Some reasonable arguments against the video also popped up. The authenticity of the 2015 email which was mentioned in it has been put into question, as are some of the facts regarding the timing of the founding of Blockstream. One can also argue that Adam Back’s credentials were more than enough for significant venture capital -- a notion that Barely Sociable is obviously opposed to. However, the overwhelming majority of criticism that the video has faced has been based on red herrings, straw men and ad hominems.

Almost every communication channel used by the cryptocurrency community reacted negatively to the video and, in the vast majority of cases, the strength of the arguments was not the reason for that.

The reason was much more simple:

  • The video exposes the truth about the manipulations, censorship and propaganda surrounding the Bitcoin scaling debate, which small blockers perpetrated.
  • The video makes a claim that perhaps the most prominent small blocker is behind Bitcoin, destroying any fork’s claims of being “Satoshi’s true vision”.

People who fall in neither of those two camps simply don’t care about Bitcoin anymore, seeing that alternative cryptocurrencies have indeed fixed most of the problems that the first cryptocurrency observed.

Barely Sociable made his own summary of the community reactions today:

This situation has been very disappointing to watch unfold.

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We already did unmask Satoshi but i will keep it to myself!
I’ll enjoy my biggest bitcoin bag thanks Officer Dibbie come and get me!