The man who once convinced multiple media sites that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, is now being accused of stealing something other than an identity: ideas and work, i.e. plagiarism
In July 2017, Craig Wright published “The Fallacy of Selfish Mining: A Mathematical Critique” to show that proposed changes to Bitcoin weren’t necessary and may be harmful to the coin’s security.
It depended heavily on a theorem of gambling system proposed in 2003 by Wen Liu and Jinting Wang. The problem is that Wright never cited them, and it seemingly goes further than that.
The alleged instanced of plagiarism were first discovered by Bitcoin Unlimited’s Chief Scientist Peter R. Rizun who has been a vocal rival to Wright for some time.
When writing a paper, regardless of if it’s an essay, article, blog post or an academic paper, there are very specific rules that must be followed. It also appears that he may have taken steps to hide his alleged plagiarism.
Entire equations are lifted from the Liu and Wang paper. Entire sentences and paragraphs as well. Most of Wright’s paper seems to be lifted directly from Liu and Wang’s. Sometimes words are omitted or changed to a synonym, but the content remains the same. Several times, the letter used to represent an integer is changed but the rest remains the same.
We contacted nChain CEO, Jimmy Nguyen about these accusations. He responded by telling us “Craig [Wright] tweeted some responses to the issue yesterday.” Looking through Craig Wright’s timeline, I found a few tweets relating to the controversy, these two seemed the most direct.
The interesting thing on not having a citation on a draft that is read by a group seeking anything to discredit me…
Many mathematicians and game theorists who would never have bothered with something like selfish mining now see the paper.
Controversy can be effective.
— Dr Craig S Wright (@ProfFaustus) April 11, 2018
You have heard it from the horses mouth, I don't check all my grammar and citations in my drafts as…
When they go to publication they are sent to a professional academic editing company who does this for me.
Drafts, are drafts.
— Dr Craig S Wright (@ProfFaustus) April 11, 2018
The issue certainly appears to be more than a forgotten citation. Citations are supposed to be used to support your idea, not an excuse to take the majority of a paper and present it as your own. Had it just been a sentence or two, Wright’s explanation would be feasible. But his entire paper and much of the mathematical equations are lifted directly from and depend entirely on the arguments first laid out by Liu and Wang. The formatting is also remarkably similar, using the same conditions and corollaries often in the same places with the same identifiers.
Wright is asking us to believe that he simply forgot to cite the very paper that he used more than any other source. He did manage to cite 12 other sources throughout the course of his paper, none of which had nearly the same influence on his writings as Liu and Wang’s.
His claim that his paper was simply a “draft” doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The paper was published, under his name, nearly nine months before the alleged plagiarism was discovered. The SSRN website is often used for preprints of academic journals. However, that does not mean you can publish someone else’s work there.
Preprints are generally for finished or nearly finished articles so that they can be peer-reviewed and then edited before sending them to an academic journal. They are not a place to dump notes or copies of another person’s work that need to be later turned into an original piece.
In another tweet Wright said that he had “people” who take care of the editing and citations for him, later calling them a professional editing company. He did not clarify beyond that. But the thing about editing companies is that they need to know what the citations are to add them in. Wright never claimed to have given them the Liu and Wang citation. He also never clarified which editing company he used, so I was unable to contact them. If he had provided them with the Liu and Wang citation, any reputable company would have told him it was too directly copied, even with a citation.
Contributed content should be relevant to the subject scope of SSRN. Content may not be illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual property rights, invasive of privacy or otherwise injurious or objectionable.” (emphasis added)
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When you provide material to SSRN, Elsevier asks you to confirm that doing so does not violate other parties’ copyright or other proprietary rights. Accordingly, you may only post versions of academic papers or articles (“Academic Papers”), journal articles, or other content on SSRN if you have the right to do so. By way of example, while many journal publishers permit posting of some versions of Academic Papers, most journals restrict the sharing of final versions. To be sure you have the right to upload such content, you should review your publishing agreement, the publisher’s copyright policies, and/or any other applicable information prior to posting any version of an Academic Paper. You may post your paper to SSRN only if you are the copyright owner, have the copyright owner’s permission, are permitted to do so under your publishing agreement or the publisher’s copyright policies or your institution’s license agreement or under a Creative Commons license.”
According to plagiarism.org, a work is considered plagiarism if the author does any of the following:
“turning in someone else’s work as your own[.] copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit[.] failing to put a quotation in quotation marks[.] giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation[.] changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit[.] copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not[.]”
Without the citation, Wright’s work seems guilty of all these definitions. If he had given a citation, his work would still arguably be guilty of “failing to put a quotation in quotation marks” and “copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.”
I have directly reached out to Craig Wright through Twitter but have not heard back at press time.
I do not have the technical expertise to determine the validity of Wright’s claim that selfish miners are not a concern. What I do have, is an understanding of plagiarism. What I am seeing appears to be work copied directly from someone else, with no credit given. When pressed on the issue, Wright claims that it was a mistake and that the mistake is a good thing because it brings more attention to his paper. That is concerning. When people are lying and cheating (plagiarism is both) you have to wonder what their motivations for doing so could be.
Craig Wright came to prominence in 2015 when he claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous developer of Bitcoin who left the community in 2010. He presented some proof that was enough to convince the likes of Gizmodo, but it did not hold up to scrutiny from bitcoin experts. He has since stopped publicly claiming to be Satoshi but remains public in his advocacy on how he feels the coin should evolve.
To that end, he has hitched his star to Bitcoin Cash and Roger Ver. He is the chief scientist of nChain, a company that has been criticized by the community for claiming patents on technology some feel they did not innovate.
We will have more if more information becomes available.
Header image: Craig Wright speaking to the BBC. Photograph: BBC News