Wright’s “Appeal to authority” paper disproved its own thesis

Sep 16, 2017 · 3 min read

Creation timestamps visible in screenshots in the “Appeal to authority” paper show how the process of editing a key inserts a newer timestamp into the key. The timestamps in Craig Wright’s keys indicate this never happened, so the “Appeal to authority” paper doesn’t address the evidence showing Wright’s keys were backdated.


  • A key with a 2008 date can be forged by having your computer’s clock set to 2008 when you create the key.
  • Wright was caught out because his keys purporting to be from 2008 contained a modern configuration setting which was not in software used to create keys until 2009 onward.
  • In response he produced the “Appeal to authority” paper, which showed how a key created in 2008 can be edited to contain the configuration that wouldn’t appear until 2009.
  • One of several problems with that paper is that Wright’s 2008 keys contained the modern configuration from the moment they were created — they were never updated the way his “Appeal to authority” paper suggests, and screenshots from that paper show this.

Editing the key updates the timestamp

In Figure 7 of the “Appeal to authority” paper (shown below), you can see that after creating the demonstration key, all timestamps listed in the key are identical: 1450535445.

Blue highlights have been added here to show the timestamps, and if you go to epochconverter.com you can enter in the number and see that 1450535445 is Saturday, December 19, 2015 2:30:45 PM (GMT)

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creation timestamps in Figure 7 from “Appeal to Authority: A failure of trust”

The “Appeal to authority” paper demonstrates how a 2008 key’s configuration could be edited using --edit-key and knowledge from the future (the need for future-knowledge being something Wright’s paper didn’t dwell on), after which Figure 11 (below) shows the pref-hash-algos field of the key now looks the same as keys created with modern software (and Wright’s keys), but notice the creation timestamp was also updated.

Red highlighting has been added to the updated timestamp, which is now 1450536456, and if we use epochconverter.com we can see that this was 17 minutes after the key was created.

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creation timestamps after performing — edit-key in “Appeal to Authority: A failure of trust”

One of Wright’s purportedly 2008 keys is shown below, note that all timestamps are the same: 1200606827 (January 17, 2008)

Since all the timestamps are still identical, we know Wright never edited in the modern configuration that appears in the key, as alluded to by the “Appeal to authority” paper.

The “Wired Key” and “Gizmodo Key” mentioned in the Motherboard article are the same — all timestamps in the keys match their creation timestamp.

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Wright’s 2008 key shows a modern configuration with all timestamps in agreement

To confirm this for yourself, gpg instructions are provided in Wright’s “Appeal to authority” paper, one of Wright’s critics provides a guide on how to obtain and view one of Wright’s keys from a key server, and the Motherboard article provides links to the other keys.

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