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Newsweek’s Bitcoin Hypocrisy

Posted on Mar 7, 2014

Photo by btckeychain (CC BY 2.0)

In exposing the identity of a highly secretive man persuasively argued to be the inventor of Bitcoin earlier this week, Newsweek’s deciders also reported that he likely has the equivalent of $400 million in the currency stashed away somewhere. Then they told everyone how to find him.

It’s a question of morality, and perhaps naiveté.

In a statement defending themselves against furious reactions to the story across the Web, the magazine’s staff wrote that they “recognized a public interest in establishing some core facts about Bitcoin and better informing those who might invest money in it.” All good. The currency is indeed volatile. There are sound reasons to be wary of its limitations and ultimate purpose, and the availability of new insight into the personality that created it stands to improve our understanding of its meaning.

But the writers concluded by encouraging readers of the article “to be respectful of the privacy and rights of individuals involved.” In other words, to the criminally inclined whom we just directed toward a cool half billion: Please restrain yourselves.

Additionally, in a video interview posted the day after her story was published, journalist Leah McGrath Goodman absurdly spoke of her hope that the man she helped expose is able to live “a quiet and peaceful life.”

Goodman and her editors deserve applause for shedding light on the origins of a phenomenon with broad societal implications. But they did it in a way that made the life of a private citizen considerably more dangerous, and so far they refuse to admit it.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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