Newsweek's return to print was marked by a hard lesson in the wrath of the Internet, which erupted in fury on Thursday about Leah McGrath Goodman's piece exposing a man named named Satoshi Nakamoto, who may or may not be the reclusive founder of bitcoin.
The Reddit subreddit r/bitcoin quickly lit up with criticism of Goodman and Newsweek over the story and its intimate details of a man Newsweek claimed to be worth $400 million in bitcoin. These details included the names and occupations of family members, along with photos of Nakamoto and his house and car, its license-plate number visible. With the photo, it was fairly easy to find Nakamoto's home address on Google Maps. Newsweek eventually changed the photo of the house and car in the online story to make it harder to see the street number and not possible to see the license plate.
"This is the sort of thing that just makes me lose all respect for the media. So intrusive, so disrespectful," wrote Redditor "jgrad." "I guess the only thing they care about is whether or not they sell their shitty magazine. No integrity at all."
"Can anyone here locate the address of one Leah McGrath Goodman - perhaps we should post her address, license plate and picture of her home, so people can come and comment on the article?," another Redditor wrote in a comment that has since been deleted. "if you can please post it here; She probably can't wait for people to knock on her door.. I mean obviously - she doesn't care about privacy."
Some Redditors found and posted Goodman's personal contact information, and those posts have also since been deleted.
Commenters on Newsweek's website were also enraged.
"Incredibly irresponsible journalism," one commenter wrote. "Not only did you out someone who just wanted to be left alone, you published photos of him and his house, as well as the location of it. Shameful and despicable, I guess all you were really thinking about adding 'Found Satoshi Nakamoto' to your resume right?"
"Your speculative article on the person behind bitcoin was blatantly disrespectful, a breach of journalist integrity, and has placed this man and his family in potentially life-threatening danger," wrote another. "Whether your theory is true or false, do you realize that you've turned this man--someone who clearly wanted his privacy to be respected--into a target with a billion-dollar bounty? If this turns out badly, blood will be on the hands of yourself and Newsweek."
Another wrote, simply: "Leah you are an absolute piece of crap."
But the outrage was not limited to anonymous comments. One of the story's main sources, top Bitcoin developer Gavin Andreson, tweeted:
I'm disappointed Newsweek decided to dox the Nakamoto family, and regret talking to Leah.
— Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen) March 6, 2014
So how much of this fury was warranted? Maybe not all of it: The identity of Bitcoin's founder is a legitimate story that Newsweek was clearly right to publish.
But Newsweek also pushed the envelope in its presentation of the story, including that house-and-car photo, about which it apparently had second thoughts.
Goodman defended publication of the photo, claiming his home address was public information anyway and tweeting that she and Newsweek "felt showing he lives humbly, despite his achievement, was both telling and inspiring."
She also disagreed with the idea that Nakamoto might be in some danger because of her story:
— Leah McGrath Goodman (@truth_eater) March 6, 2014
To which one tweeter responded:
— Based Wolong (@MichaelEvancoe) March 6, 2014