Proof of Friends? BTC Evangelists Accused of Manipulating TX Confirmation Wager

Proof of Friends? BTC Evangelists Accused of Manipulating TX Confirmation Wager

TL;DR: Bitcoin Core (BTC) evangelist Tone Vays claimed victory in a wager made at the behest of CEO Roger Ver during a recent debate in Malta. Ver challenged Vays to send $5 in BTC, declaring he would donate $10,000 to the charity of Vays’ choice if the transaction (TX) confirmed that day with a fee set at just one cent. However, a few sleuths on social media, and a popular subreddit, cast doubt on Vays’ assertion the TX was organically confirmed within 10 hours, going so far as to allege a miner sympathetic to Vays pushed the TX through to cast Ver in a negative light.  *UPDATED at bottom.*     

BTC Evangelists Accused of Manipulating Wager on TX Confirmation

The 2019 Malta AI & Blockchain Summit was held recently over May 23rd and 24th. Among the guest speakers were BTC maximalist and technical analyst Tone Vays and CEO Roger Ver, well-known for his advocating bitcoin cash (BCH). They were brought together to have a sit-down, rather loose debate hosted by Monte Munford of Forbes.

Proof of Friends? BTC Evangelists Accused of Manipulating TX Confirmation Wager

It was billed by the conference as “The Ultimate Showdown: BTC Vs BTC Cash,” warning attendees, “Fasten your seatbelts as adversarial thought leaders go head-to-head in a ‘real-talk’ deathmatch.” In truth, it was 15 minutes or so of argument about the nature and relevance of on-chain transaction fees (and there isn’t such a coin as BTC Cash — they meant, of course, Bitcoin Cash, BCH).

Ver kept to his main talking points, uttered around the world in a multitude of formats and forums: BTC is simply too expensive for the average person to use frequently, reliably, and this is due in large part to block sizes being kept artificially small. Vays seem uninterested in the point, and insisted Ver’s estimation about fees was off by a lot, as Vays explained he’s been using BTC every day for the last 9 months, paying no more than a $1.

Please Do

Ver immediately pulled out his phone, asking Vays do the same. He’d send Vays some BTC and find out what the fee calculation is … right now, live. Vays countered his wallet allows him to set any fee he’d like, and could easily send Ver $5 with a five cent fee if Ver wanted. “Please do,” Ver smiled to the crowd. No way that’s getting confirmed any time soon, and will probably get stuck in the mempool for weeks, Ver laughed. After some haggling, Ver shot back, “Send it for 1 satoshi per byte like all bitcoin cash transactions.” Vays eventually agreed, and lowered the transaction to a one cent fee.

Proof of Friends? BTC Evangelists Accused of Manipulating TX Confirmation Wager
As one subreddit sleuth pointed out, Vays’ transaction was the first in the block after the coinbase. It’s clear the miner picked it manually, the commenter insisted. Every other tx in the block had a much higher fee.

“So, here you go Tone,” Ver began again, “if that gets included in a block today, I’ll donate $10,000 to the charity of your choice. That’s how confident I am that a one satoshi per byte fee on the Bitcoin [Core] network … they no longer go through, and that’s why I’ve switched all of my time, effort, and resources to Bitcoin Cash.” Vays explained he still used on-chain BTC transactions even though fees are comparably high because he’s “lazy.” He also insisted second-layer solutions off-chain for BTC, such as Segregated Witness and Lightning Network, are already enabling the kinds of transactions Ver favors. Vays also mentioned the higher fees were okay because they helped to incentivize miners to secure the BTC network.

Later, Ver alleged Vays’ $5 BTC transaction hadn’t even broadcast, to which Vays showed Ver it had. “It says priority 23,836 out of 24,355 transactions,” Ver explained. “That means if every single transaction on the [BTC] network were to completely stop right now, and every single block is only clearing the backlog of transactions on the [BTC] network, right now … it’s going to take about 10 blocks … so about an hour and a half before his transaction gets included in a block … if every single other [BTC] transaction stops.” Vays raised his hands and grinned, “Don’t I have a day to get the $10,000?”

Proof of Friends?

Anonymous crypto Twitter personality CobraBitcoin, and no fan of Ver’s, pointed out at Vays’ Twitter boast about winning the bet, “Convenient the block that included that transaction was mined by slush? I would expect the folks behind that pool to never pass up the chance to make Roger look bad…” A BTC supporter replied, “It’s a free world. Roger doesn’t understand this apparently! LMAO, Roger still doesn’t understand bitcoin,” implying gaming a wager with that sort of alleged manipulation should be expected.

The reference is to Slush Pool, which claims to be the world’s first mining pool. It’s also an ardent BTC supporter and partisan, as even a cursory read of their Twitter account instantly reveals: they’re not keen on bitcoin cash, at all. Slush has also been allegedly tied to BTC development company Blockstream (who neither hold Ver nor BCH in much regard). And so sub-reddit detectives began to have their say, as commenter coin-master alleged, “It was manually added by the miner,” and pointed to a Blockchair graph (see above also). “Just check the 2nd transaction (first after coinbase) in that block. The fee is less than 1% than those of all the other transactions in that block.”

Thread commenter JerryGallow asked, “Why did Tone redact the txid but leave all the other identifying information? Does he think that makes it private?” calling into question Vays’ basic understanding of the BTC network itself. Avatar horsebadlydrawn also noted, “Others have pointed out that the tx looks suspicious for several reasons: it’s the the first transaction in block #577628 (aside from the Coinbase tx), despite the low fee (the first tx in a block was usually mined at the highest priority).” Yet another commenter claimed actually Vays lost either way, as the “bet was that the transaction would confirm ‘today’ not ‘within 24 hours.’ The transaction occurred around 2 hours after that day ended,” Malta time, which is UTC +2 hours. At publication, neither Vays nor Slush Pool have commented on the accusations.


DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH. 

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