Bitcoin Core and Segwit2x Go to Metaphorical War

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The scalability “debate” reached a new low yesterday following public allegations that threats were made, apparent public engagement in outright bribery, accusations of smear and libel in private meetings as well as a doubling down.

The unraveling began with an apparently factual tweet from Mike Belshe, current CEO of BitGo, whose achievements are sufficiently distinguished to earn him his own wikipedia page.

He said that “94.4% of blocks mined today signal for segwit2x.” That’s a factual statement which we can verify as, of course, being true. But truth is besides the point here. Let’s frame this fact:

Facts are deception

There you have it. The mere statement of a fact “borders” on deception according to Matt Corallo, a Bitcoin Core developer and former Blockstream employee.

What he should have said, according to Corallo, is that “hashpower is signaling for 2x, even though we all know they’ll just follow the market.”

If we try and stick to facts, that sentence conflates two different time-frames. If there is no adjustment to difficulty or proof of work, then the fact 94% of miners are saying they aim to mine the segwit2x chain is highly relevant initially.

That’s because the minor chain will have a very hard time finding blocks and would probably not last the day as it would have only 6% hashpower mining on 100% difficulty.

Bitcoin Cash had a difficulty adjustment mechanism that reduced that 100% to currently 10%. Without it, it’s not clear it would have survived.

All of these factors are very relevant to the “market.” Likewise, if one chain has to adjust difficulty or proof of work, that is a very relevant factor too. So, they will ultimately follow the market, of course, but they are also part of the market. Especially the many businesses – almost all prominent ones – that signed up to segwit2x.

If dismissing a relevant fact as “bordering on deception” was not sufficient, Matt Corallo had this to say following Belshe’s much shorter reply to Corallo’s statement we quoted above:

Apparent public bribery?

Barry threatening his business? Loads of dollars to be found these days? Can’t explain his behavior? What on earth is going on here?

We have to interlude and say Matt is fairly young. He finished his degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. We presume that would have been at the age of around 21, making him 24 or so. Not that young, but some immaturity should be expected for that age.

We have to also say that he is a “co-founder” of Blockstream Corporation. A term we are not sure means much since he and all other Bitcoin Core developers that work at Blockstream are not listed as directors/officers in its incorporation documents.

Going back to where we were, at this point Belshe does what you’d expect any mature professional to do and stays silent. The accusations are grave, they implicate a third party, and there is a strong suggestion of money being offered in public, which of course means any reply would have to be very, very, carefully worded. Plus, further elaboration would be expected at this stage, so we go back to Corallo:

Allegations of threats.

That’s a bombshell. The fact that it is made by a person in a somewhat higher and respected, at least to some, status as a Bitcoin Core developer makes it a serious allegation. Silbert’s reputation here is very much on the line, because who would want to do business with anyone that a Bitcoin Core developer alleges engages in threats.

Even us as publishers who have a very strong public interest defence have to think twice before quoting the above allegation because if it is false Silbert would have a strong case for Defamation. Something which injured reputations might not have an option but to pursue so as to clear their name.

Matt Corallo doubles down. He alleges there are some emails which prove his allegations. He says:

Corallo doubles down.

If Silbert leaves the matter here, then whether the allegation is true or false is irrelevant. The very fact that it was made and not cleared gives a different dimension to how he is perceived.

Which is why damages in defamation cases can be punitive and are usually very high because such allegations should not be made at all if they are false as the other’s character suffers considerably at the alleger’s  gain. And impugning others character by false statements is of course very damaging to our society.

Whether the statement is true or false we do not know. We do not intend to imply either way and we won’t speculate either. But Jeff Garzik, a former Bitcoin Core developer who now leads the segwit2x client, says:

Garzik makes some allegations too.

Again, we do not know whether the above is true or false and do not intend to imply either way, but in general, there are very good reasons why laws, such as defamation, exist.

Impugning someone’s character through false statements is very easy and does work at the benefit of the impugner and at the expense of the defamed. Since we want people, especially respected people in positions of responsibility, to be able to perform as upstanding citizens, we very much consent to such laws and find them completely agreeable in general terms.

If the bitcoin public space descends into complete incivility, then much will be lost. For what it’s worth, Adam Back, Blockstream’s president, denies the above allegations:

Adam Back denies allegations.

Back does not reply to Garzik’s detailing of a specific instance at the time of writing. We also do not know what “trashing” means exactly. But regardless of where the truth lies, the general direction of public discourse has fallen considerably.

There is one thing to disagree, there is one thing to even name call. But defamation, whether in public or in private, is a line that shouldn’t be crossed because if it is allowed to do so without legal redress then the bitcoin space descends to the bottom of the barrel.

The line is fine between opinion, even strongly expressed opinion, and intentional impugning of other’s character for your gain and their great expense by a statement of fact known to be false or so greatly exaggerated that one knows it to be so detached from the base that it amounts to false.

That line is there for very good and agreeable reasons to almost everyone. So we hope it is kept where it is, and we hope we are spared the burden of writing a likewise article again.

 

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