France and Europe stand at a crossroad as the continent’s most important election in a century is now fully underway. Reuters says Macron is the favorite with some 23-26 points ahead of the socialist-leaning on the economy, but far-right on social issues, Front Nacional candidate Marine Le Pen.
The only poll that matters, however, is the results of today’s election, not least because we were told on the vote day that Remain was 10 point ahead. Leave won by a very small margin.
The British people then had a very difficult decision, as do the French people now, a decision that may have ramifications for decades to come as they choose between the liberal order and the last century’s nationalism.
It’s important therefore that this monumental decision is made with a clear head and factual information. So we took a look at allegations- started by others, but shared by Milo Yiannopoulos – that an aid to the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron had bought drugs with bitcoin.
The evidence presented shows an e-mail that seemingly suggests places where you can buy bitcoin, such as Coinbase and Kraken, both reputable bitcoin exchanges. It also shows a payment address, which is blurred for unclear reasons, and a shipping address to Alain Tourret’s public government address.
The allegations claim Tourret is a senior campaign manager for Macron. Perhaps. His google translated Wikipedia page doesn’t say so, nor could we be assisted by google in finding any evidence he is the campaign manager, but our research on this point was very brief.
Because we mostly focused on the blockchain part which is what we are far more familiar with. The evidence shows the below screenshot:
Those long strings of numbers and letters are what is called a bitcoin address. It’s very much similar to an IP address, but while the world wide web engineers were far too kind and made IPs humanly readable by translating them into words, bitcoin hasn’t yet managed to do so (ethereum has recently began a naming system for their addresses).
That means we have to look at the machine friendly addresses, which are presented above twice, once on the right and once on the left. That’s because bitcoin’s blockchain works like a chain. Transactions are linked, moving from one address to another, from left to right.
Another thing to note here is the box on the right. If it’s red, it means the stated amount was paid out to the new address on the right. If it’s green, it means the address on the right received the stated amount by the new address on the left.
Now, the address we are interested in according to the presented evidence is this one:
The evidence speculates this address is a coin-vendor where Tourret bought the bitcoins. Even just a cursory look shows that’s very unlikely. The volume is very low for a coin vendor, with just 71 bitcoins received in total. This address is in fact a bitcoin miner:
Eligus Pool is a very old bitcoin pool, hardly used at this point, suggesting this specific miner has probably began mining a very long time ago – maybe 2011 or thereabouts – not least because the last payout was in July 2014 for a tiny amount of 0.01345056 BTC.
Now it could be the case that the miner sold the bitcoins directly to Tourret. The usual way of doing so would have been through localbitcoins, a peer to peer bitcoin market place where sellers and buyers are matched.
However, for that to be the case the address in question would have needed to firstly send the bitcoins to localbitcoins’ address. That’s not what happened in this case as the evidence says it was sent directly from the miner to the alleged bitcoin address of Tourret.
The evidence does not say how they concluded this specific address belongs to Tourret. They present no evidence to reach such conclusion and, since bitcoin addresses are pseudo-anonymous similar to reddit nicknames, without something to link the bitcoin address to Tourret then we cannot in any way say who this address belongs to.
Anyway, what’s happened with this address is they received 4.2 bitcoins, worth now some $6,000 or more, from the miner, on the 21st of February 2017. That’s seemingly before the e-mail, which is dated in March.
Now the evidence speculates that specific address which they say belongs to Tourret sent the funds to this address which they say belongs to Buckled. Perhaps. It could, however, be anyone’s address as there is no evidence here whatever to suggest it belongs to Buckled. With such small amounts and just two transactions, we can’t really say anything about this address as far as the blockchain is concerned except that it did receive around 202 euros worth of bitcoin and sent the same amount to this address.
They speculate the address belongs to a drug dealer. Maybe. It could, however, be an alpaca socks shop for all we know because we’re not being provided any information on how these conclusions are reached.
Bitcoin addresses reveal no information in and of themselves regarding their owners. In fact, if the owner doesn’t himself reveal it, it’s as good as impossible to know who an address belongs to.
What we do know is that the one thing we can verify about the evidence is completely wrong. The address alleged to be a coin-vendor is in fact a bitcoin miner and we know this only because the mining pool has chosen to reveal such information.
The rest of the evidence therefore seemingly falls apart, not least because they provide as good as no information on how they reach the many conclusions they present, instead seemingly just attributing ownership to random addresses.
Bitcoin is all new, so maybe it’s slightly confusing, but just think of the addresses as reddit nicknames, and look at the evidence they present again. What it is saying is no more than the nickname arandomreddituser belongs to buckles. Sure, maybe. How do you know? They are also saying the nickname randomguy belongs to Tourret. Could be, could be not.
What we do know is that their claim the nickname veryrandom belongs to a coin vendor in fact belongs to a very early bitcoin miner, which strongly suggests the rest of their claims are pretty shabby speculation because it took us two minutes of research to fully contradict their “researchers who are experts in illicit online transactions.”
By the way Milo, next time, if you are going to share articles which claim researchers undertook some blockchain analysis, please do name them. It would be very useful for all of us in the blockchain space to know who or what company was willing to provide such wild speculation that appears to have no backing by evidence and which can easily be disproven in their one claim by around two seconds of actual research.