Hodlonaut's Tweets Calling Craig Wright a 'Scammer' Were Not Unlawful, Court Rules

Hodlonaut's Tweets Calling Craig Wright a 'Scammer' Were Not Unlawful, Court Rules

Created 1yr ago, last updated 10mo ago

Judge Helen Engebrigtsen ruled that Hodlonaut, whose real name is Magnus Granath, is not liable for damages as a result of the posts he made on Twitter.

Hodlonaut's Tweets Calling Craig Wright a 'Scammer' Were Not Unlawful, Court Rules

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Hodlonaut has won a high-stakes trial in Norway against Craig Wright, the self-proclaimed inventor of Bitcoin.

The crypto personality had written a series of tweets that accused Dr. Wright of being a fraud and a scammer — and questioned claims that he was Satoshi Nakamoto.

Thursday's ruling in Hodlonaut's favor will have a knock-on effect on Dr. Wright's ambition of collecting damages for libel during separate legal proceedings in London.

Judge Helen Engebrigtsen ruled that Hodlonaut, whose real name is Magnus Granath, is not liable for damages as a result of the posts he made on Twitter.

And crucially, Dr. Wright is now being ordered to cover Granath's legal costs to the tune of 4.05 million Norwegian krone — that's about $380,791.

The court ruling outlined some of the tweets that Hodlonaut — who was working as a primary school teacher at the time — had written back in March 2019. One had said:

"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 two read posts arguing why he isn't Satoshi."

He ended up deleting the tweets in question — some of which had included the hashtag #CraigWrightIsAScammer.

Granath successfully argued that his allegations were not defamatory (damaging someone's reputation,) nor did they violate Dr. Wright's privacy.

He went on to add that the Australian entrepreneur had failed to provide evidence that he had Satoshi Nakamoto's encryption keys — and although Dr. Wright explained he had destroyed them during the trial, "there are no good reasons for doing this."

What the Court Said

Judge Engebrigtsen ultimately concluded that context was crucial. In the judicial order translated from Norwegian by CoinDesk, she wrote:

"The meaning of the designation 'swindler' is not the same if you are referred to as a fraudster at a police seminar on ID theft as when you are called a 'swindler' on Twitter in a heated discussion about whether one has succeeded in proving his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto."

In her eyes, "it is not unusual to use strong words on Twitter, and this affects the interpretation and meaning of the terms used."

And she said that use of words including "fraud," "fake" and "scammer" cannot be regarded as an allegation that Dr. Wright had acted criminally.

"One of Granath's statements includes a message that Wright is 'clearly mentally ill'. The court understands this primarily as a value assessment in the sense of 'he is confused/disillusioned/insane' when he claims that he is Satoshi Nakamoto. Using the term 'insane' if someone you believe is behaving incredibly or strangely is common and, in the court's opinion, cannot be understood as an actual claim that someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness. The court perceives Granath's use of 'clearly mentally ill' as an expression of force."

A clear distinction is also drawn between the use of social media, and a defamatory statement that is made on television.

"There is a lot of strong language on Twitter. The format of the media encourages strong descriptions and characteristics. Swear words, insults and profanity are common. Granath's formulations are quite typical of the jargon on Twitter, and the statements are therefore perceived in the court's view as less offensive on Twitter than they would be on [the evening news.]"

While Dr. Wright had attempted to argue that the hashtag #CraigWrightIsAScammer had encouraged Hodlonaut's followers to pile in with their own messages, the court did not agree "that this is understood as an invitation for others to bully" him.

"Hashtags are common on social media in general and Twitter in particular, and are a way of sorting conversations or topics. The court cannot see that Granath's use of the hashtag deviates from this."

It was also noted that debate about Dr. Wright's claims had been taking place since 2016 — with 7,000 messages over a three-year period, and some of them also including similar language.

Overall, the judge said that Granath's statements "have a core of allegations of a factual nature."

It could be argued that Dr. Wright had one small win in a case that was otherwise a slam dunk for Hodlonaut.

"Both parties in the case have pointed to circumstances that speak respectively for and against Dr. Wright being Satoshi Nakamoto. The question has been debated since 2016. The court chooses not to take a position on this, because it has no bearing on the outcome of the case."

Nonetheless, the judge notes that it wasn't just Hodlonaut who had questioned Dr. Wright's claims — as "in media coverage, the prevailing opinion was that Dr. Wright was not Satoshi Nakamoto."

"Wright has come out with a controversial claim, and must withstand criticism from dissenters. Overall, the court believes that the wording and claims made by Granath do not exceed the threshold for defamation and infringement of privacy. The statements are not unlawful."
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