Nakamoto Disappeared When the Government Started Paying Attention
Nakamoto was active on Bitcoin forums until late 2010. But when Bitcoin started to gain negative media attention as a currency that is used for criminal transactions, Nakamoto protested that he didn’t like the attention Bitcoin was getting. When most members of the Bitcoin community didn’t take his complaints seriously, he suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again.
In late 2010, all of the major payment providers in the U.S. banned donations to WikiLeaks, cutting off its funding completely.
Keir Thomas, a writer for PC World magazine, commented on this development and its implications for Bitcoin in an article titled “Could the WikiLeaks Scandal Lead to New Virtual Currency?” He argued that Bitcoin might be good for the world because it might help whistleblowers avoid government crackdowns.
Because of the wide circulation of this article, thousands of curious readers flocked to Bitcoin forums to learn how it worked.
But Nakamoto didn’t like the attention Bitcoin was getting from this incident. He stated:
“It would have been nice to get this attention in any other context. Wikileaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”3
After this post, Nakamoto made only one more update to the Bitcoin software. He then made Gavin Andresen a project manager in the Bitcoin github account. With his new admin role, Andresen hired new admins to continue managing the Bitcoin team, and Nakamoto never worked on the project again.
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In April, 2011, Nakamoto sent an email to Andresen that reaffirmed his concern about Bitcoin becoming associated with criminal activity and attracting the attention of the government:
“I wish you wouldn’t keep talking about me as a mysterious shadowy figure, the press just turns that into a pirate currency angle. Maybe instead make it about the open source project and give more credit to your dev contributors; it helps motivate them.”
“I’ve moved on to other things and will probably be unavailable. Here’s the CAlert key and broadcast code in case you need it. You should probably give it to at least one or two other people. There are a few long time users who are always around all the time.”4
Andresen responded by agreeing that he didn’t like the “wacky pirate money tone” the media was running with. But then he mentioned that the CIA had invited him to speak about Bitcoin.
Nakamoto never responded, and this turned out to be the last known email he sent to a Bitcoin contributor. So Nakamoto may have stopped participating because he was concerned that the government would start to crack down on the Bitcoin community.
Note: Luckily for Nakamoto, he got all of his Bitcoin by mining it. This means he didn’t need to buy it from a regulated exchange and provide proof of his identity. Today, Bitcoin mining requires a significant capital outlay to get started, so investors who want to stay anonymous use offshore exchanges to buy their crypto without compromising their privacy. You should know the risks and benefits to using offshore exchanges.
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