Home > News > Retracted: Researchers go back on claim that Silk Road and Bitcoin founder are connected

Retracted: Researchers go back on claim that Silk Road and Bitcoin founder are connected

Claim made by Israeli researchers that Satoshi Nakamoto invested in Silk Road is debunked by Reddit users.


It turns out there isn’t a link between Dread Pirate Roberts’ former drugs and vice bazaar Silk Road, and the creator of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

Earlier this week researchers Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir of the Weizmann Institute published a research paper plotting the efforts of U.S. authorities to find and seize bitcoins belonging to Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as Ross William Ulbricht, that were made as commissions from Silk Road. During their research, the pair discovered what appeared to be an early investment in Silk Road from one of the accounts that mined the original blocks.

“The short path we found … suggests (but does not prove) the existence of a surprising link between the two mysterious figures of the Bitcoin community, Satoshi Nakamoto and DPR,” they wrote.


Bitcoin lore says that the mining in the original accounts was all done by Satoshi Nakamoto, who accumulated nearly one million bitcoins (worth approximately $795 million in today’s dollars) by mining the first 20,000 blocks.

But it turns out that Ron and Shamir weren’t very diligent in their research. As Reddit user iwilcox posts on /r/bitcoin, the account in question that allegedly made the transfer to Silk Road belongs to an individual named Dustin D. Trammell, a 35-year-old IT professional and self-described libertarian. According to a blog post from Trammell, linked to by iwilcox, the transfer in question was done not to a Silk Road controlled account but rather to an account controlled by trading exchange Mt. Gox.

Trammell’s bitcoins were then likely bought by a customer of Mt. Gox looking to convert dollars into bitcoins to use with Silk Road. So there is a connection between the bitcoins that Trammell once had and Mt. Gox as the currency changed hands, but to argue that there is some sort of strong tie between the two seems rather specious.

Many users in the same thread offered explanations as to why different parts of the research was flawed.

In a statement published Business Insider, Ron and Shamir explained their retraction:

“It had just been brought to our attention that Dustin D. Trammell had published a post at in which he details his very early association with the bitcoin scheme and states that he is the owner of the account which received some of the first batches of mined bitcoins, and describes how he deposited  them into his account at MtGox from which they found their way in a few short hops and without his involvement into DPR’s account.”

But the two were adamant that their methodology was not flawed and there was some value to their work.

“Our last point is about the value of big data analysis in general, and flow analysis in large social graphs in particular. If political leaders are found to have many common friends with Mafia dons, this is worth reporting even though it may have completely innocent interpretations. One should be careful not to present such connections as proofs of guilt, but this is often the only way to discover interesting things in large and complex data collections. In fact, even the bitcoin community itself uses such techniques all the time when they try to understand events such as the recent large transfer of 194,000 BTCs or the reasons for massive fluctuations in the bitcoin exchange rate. It is thus strange to read recommendations from the community that no one should look into the publicly available block change and try to draw any conclusions from it by using  modern data mining techniques.”

Their research was supported by a grant provided by the Citi Foundation.

Source: Reddit

Via: Business Insider

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