A defamation trial is underway, this time in Oslo, Norway, wherein the identity of the pseudonymous author of the Bitcoin white paper, Satoshi Nakamoto, is yet again one of the points of contention that will support the case.
Just less than a month after a United Kingdom High Court found blogger Peter McCormack guilty of all charges of defamation against Dr. Craig S. Wright, the real-world identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, Wright is in court yet again in a battle against cyberbullying.
Twitter troll Magnus Granath, more popularly known for his pseudonym “Hodlonaut,” is the plaintiff claiming that his numerous tweets against nChain Chief Scientist and the man said to be behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto Dr. Craig S. Wright–the defendant in this case–are not defamatory and within the protection of the freedom of speech in Norway.
In March 2019, Granath tweeted, “I have nothing but contempt for trash like Roger, Faketoshi, PedoCalvin and all their enabling scum.” “Faketoshi” is a derogatory nickname that Granath made for Wright that quickly became a trend.
Another tweet that Granath made that is particularly insulting is: “Craig Wright is a very sad and pathetic scammer. Clearly mentally ill. Everything about him induces deep cringe. I suffer from obviousness fatigue after still having to read posts arguing why he isn’t Satoshi.”
Another one reads: “As a tribute to Craig Wright being a fraud, I’m going to make next week “Craig Wright is a fraud week”, and tag all my posts with #CraigWrightIsAFraud Feel free to join the celebration [praying emoji].”
#CraigWrightIsAFraud trended on Twitter after Wright’s lawyers served him a legal notice asking for “Hodlonaut,” whose identity remained anonymous at that time, for a statement of apology for his offensive tweets and a recantation. Granath has since deleted the tweets, but did not apologize or recant his statements; hence, the trial.
And although, the Judge said on the first day of the Granath v Wright trial that “A judgment in this case will not establish beyond a reasonable doubt if Dr. Wright is Satoshi,” it still remains that, “Whether Dr. Wright is or is not Satoshi will support the case.”
Unlike McCormack who backed out of using the truth defense, which means that he will not be proving that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto in his defense, Granath will need to prove that his statements claiming that Wright is a fraud is true. Doing so would be tantamount to establishing that it is not illegal to say that someone is a fraud, when that person is indeed a fraud.
The Plaintiff Aims to Set a Court Precedent
Given Granath’s obviously hateful tweets against Wright, one might wonder why he is the one suing Wright in Norway. After receiving the legal notice from Wright, Granath immediately began court proceedings in Norway to establish the lawfulness of his tweets.
Being the first one to sue Wright was also an attempt to prevent Wright from suing Granath in the UK—one that ended in failure. In fact, Granath has already been asked by the UK High Court earlier this year to pay Wright a total of £303,000 in Wright’s libel suit against Granath.
However, Granath and his legal team are still aiming to set a court precedent with the trial in Norway. By establishing that Granath’s tweets were lawful and not defamatory under free speech, then it may negatively impact Wright’s case in the UK.
September 12 marked the first day of the Granath v Wright trial, and the lawyers for the plaintiff presented their opening argument. According to CoinGeek’s Chief Bitcoin historian Kurt Wuckert Jr. who is covering the trial in Norway, Granath’s lawyers mostly presented a rehashing of the Kleiman v Wright case, in which the jury answered “no” in 5 out of 7 counts in the verdict sheet.
“I think the storytelling here was weak. I think the tone was kind of weak, and I think the narrative was just really all over the place. So, given that this is likely Magnus’ strongest day—I mean this is just their opening arguments, not even any debate, it’s literally, ‘tell the story, tell the legend of Magnus Granath’ for eight hours—and it was like confusing, meandering, whatever,” Wuckert said.
In fact, the plaintiff’s attorneys did not even specify Granath’s tweets and what they contain at all. The opening arguments were so confusing that the Judge had to interrupt the lawyers mid-speech several times to ask for clarifications.
The Defense Battles Against Cyberbullying
Day 2 of Granath v Wright saw the opening speech of lead counsel for the defense Halvor Manshaus. He presented a much clearer narrative with a message that ultimately, whether or not Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto does not negate the fact that Granath defamed Wright through his tweets and hashtag campaigns.
“Legally speaking, it is an error to say that these tweets are not defamatory. It wouldn’t matter if he’s Satoshi or not. To say that he’s fraudulently ‘tried to prove it’ is legally problematic,” Mansaus said.
Free speech is indeed crucial to any democracy. However, it comes with integrity, limitations and responsibilities—especially for Granath who is claiming he made the statements based on his journalistic duties. According to Manshaus, free speech does not allow for someone to target a person and build a culture of cyberbullying around them, which is what Granath has done.
Granath is not just a “nobody” who stated his opinions on social media. In fact, he was followed and was even retweeted by Twitter Co-Founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. Manshaus then presented messages sent by Granath to a Telegram group about concrete plans to undermine and bring down Wright and BSV, which is the Bitcoin implementation that Wright is supporting.
Cryptocurrency exchange Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has even tweeted in support of Granath with the hashtag #WeAreAllHodlonaut and a threat to delist BSV. True to his word, Binance delisted BSV within the same month of the tweet in April 2019. This move was followed by excganges Bittylicious, Kraken and Shapeshift, allegedly causing BSV holders £9.9 billion worth in losses.
Craig Wright is not Satoshi.
Anymore of this sh!t, we delist! https://t.co/hrnt3fDACq
— CZ 🔶 Binance (@cz_binance) April 12, 2019
The evidence Manshaus presented shows that Granath is supported by very powerful people who want to sabotage Wright and BSV, and that Granath’s campaign against Wright has created a “culture of bullying” targeting Wright.
Manshaus then went on to tell Wright’s story: his doxing, how he was forced to lead a public life, how he proved to former Bitcoin Foundation Executive Director Jon Matonis and former Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, how he was repeatedly hacked, his many credentials and accomplishments, and so on.
As Manshaus detailed Wright’s history, he was also able to explain to the Judge what Bitcoin is and the technology behind it—something that the Judge seemed to appreciate as he listened intently and asked follow-up questions.
One of Manshaus’ last statements drove the point home more passionately, “Nobody should go out, as Magnus has done, with the goal of calling any man ‘pathetic.’ Not as Hodlonaut, not as himself.” Manshaus then heeded the Judge’s order not to extend and ended by saying, “And it is 4:00pm in some seconds, and I pride myself on finishing exactly on time. That’s all.”
It must be noted that there is no jury for this trial. The Judge will decide whether Granath’s tweets are to be protected under free speech or whether they were defamatory. The third day of Granath v Wright will prove to be more exciting as Granath and Wright take the stand.