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Satoshi Nakamoto Emails: Early Correspondence Shows Bitcoin Founder Wanted to Downplay Anonymity

Last Updated 26 seconds ago
James Morales
Last Updated 26 seconds ago
By James Morales
Verified by Peter Henn

  Key Takeaways

  • Martti Malmi has published email correspondence with Satoshi Nakamoto from 2009 to 2011.
  • Craig Wright’s recent UK court case featured the emails as evidence during court recent trial in the UK.
  • In them, Satoshi acknowledged concerns with presenting Bitcoin as anonymous.

The fact that anyone can create a Bitcoin address and interact with the blockchain without disclosing their identity is one of the cryptocurrency’s most celebrated features. But also one of its most criticized.

A trove of recently surfaced correspondence reveals that Satoshi Nakamoto anticipated some of that criticism in the early days of Bitcoin, when they sought to deemphasize its capacity for anonymous transactions.

Martti Malmi Emails Revealed During Craig Wright Trial 

Having disappeared from public view in 2010, Satoshi Nakamoto left only their white paper and a smattering of forum posts from which future investigations would be able to glean insight into the mysterious Bitcoin inventor.

However, early Bitcoin contributor Martti Malmi recently shared a trove of previously undisclosed emails . These shed new light on Nakamoto’s outlook during the cryptocurrency’s formative years.

Referring to the case of Craig Wright vs. Cypto Open Patent Alliance:“I did not feel comfortable sharing private correspondence earlier, but decided to do so for an important trial in the UK in 2024 where I was a witness.”

Also known by their pseudonym Sirius, Malmi explained  how they first came into contact with Satoshi via video call during the Craig Wright trial: 

“I went looking for innovations in money, like googling for peer-to-peer money, and Bitcoin came up. It had been published recently. I think it was around April 2009 when I found it and took a look at the white paper. I took some time to digest it and sent an email to Satoshi. I offered him my help.”

Malmi’s testimony depicted Wright as a serial liar and may have helped the judge conclude that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto

But the emails he revealed do reveal something about the real Satoshi.

Satoshi Nakamoto Was Concerned About Bitcoin’s Reputation

In one email to Malmi discussing the text on the Bitcoin website, Satoshi says he thinks they should “de-emphasize the anonymous angle”.

Satoshi’s primary concern was to avoid giving people the impression their identity was automatically hidden. 

They said: “It’s possible to be pseudonymous, but you have to be careful.”

The website should therefore “[prepare] expectations by warning that you have to take precautions if  you really want to make that work”.

However, Satoshi also expressed their concern that “anonymous sounds a bit shady.”

Privacy Central to Early Bitcoin

Although they may have sought to downplay Bitcoin’s capacity for anonymous transactions, both Satoshi and Malmi took privacy seriously.

The two collaborators showed great admiration for the anonymous web browser Tor. Their correspondence also reveals they accepted anonymous cash donations to help pay for server fees. 

In one email, Satoshi discussed a potential exchange system that would let people buy Bitcoin without revealing their identity. For example, they floated the idea of using the gold- and fiat-backed digital currency platform Liberty Reserve as an intermediary when buying BTC.

Launched in 2007, Liberty Reserve issued digital assets pegged to dollars, euros and gold. 

Much like today’s stablecoins, bank reserves underpinned the value of the currency. But unlike most modern crypto exchanges, users could register and transfer money with only a name, e-mail address and birth date. 

In 2013, the United States government shut down Liberty Reserve and charged its founders with money laundering.

The event foreshadowed debates over privacy coins and know-your-customer (KYC) rules that continue to rage today. It also demonstrated the fundamental weakness inherent to centralized systems.

Today, Bitcoin has long since outgrown the Satoshi and Malmi’s cypherpunk milieu. But no amount of mainstream acceptance can change the underlying principles upon which it was founded. Freedom, privacy and resistance to all forms of centralized control remain at the heart of Bitcoin. 

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