Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, still confined in the Ecuador embassy in London, revealed interesting bits of WikiLeaks – and Bitcoin – history in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) open Q/A session on Reddit today.
The AMA was dedicated to Assange’s new book “When Google Met WikiLeaks.”
Julian Assange Saves Bitcoin from WikiLeaks
In a comment on Reddit, Julian Assange says he has written about Bitcoin in his new book, and highlights the following footnote:
On 5 December 2010, just after VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon, and other financial companies started denying service to WikiLeaks, a debate broke out on the official web forum for Bitcoin about the risk that donations to WikiLeaks using Bitcoin could provoke unwanted government interest in the then nascent crypto-currency. ‘Basically, bring it on,’ wrote one poster. ‘Satoshi Nakamoto,’ the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin, responded: ‘No, don’t ‘bring it on.’ The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way. I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.’ See the post on the Bitcoin Forum: archive.today/Gvonb#msg26999. Six days later, on 12 December 2010, Satoshi famously vanished from the Bitcoin community, but not before posting this message: ‘It would have been nice to get this attention in any other context. WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.’ See the post on the Bitcoin Forum: archive.today/XuHCD#selection-1803.0-1802.1.
In agreement with Satoshi’s analysis, Assange and Wikileaks decided to put off the launch of a Bitcoin donation channel until the currency had become more established. This decision may have saved Bitcoin from premature death in the cradle for too much unfriendly media attention too soon.
WikiLeaks’ Bitcoin donation address was launched after the currency’s first major boom, on 14 June 2011, with more than 8,000 percent return in three years, saving WikiLeaks from the US banking blockade in turn. In summary you can say that Bitcoin and WikiLeaks saved each other.
Assange understands that the aspects of Bitcoin more frequently reported by the media – the scandals and the huge price swings – are only the visible tip of the iceberg. The real power of Bitcoin is in the blockchain, the revolutionary innovation that permits establishing consensus in a distributed crowd of independent agents. WikiLeaks is in the business of whistleblowing and needs verifiable means to establish the origins of the leak – anonymously, to protect the source. Assange says:
“Bitcoin is an extremely important innovation, but not in the way most people think. Bitcoin’s real innovation is a globally verifiable proof [of] publishing at a certain time. The whole system is built on that concept and many other systems can also be built on it. The blockchain nails down history, breaking Orwell’s dictum of ‘He who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future.'”
“When Google Met WikiLeaks” is built around the transcript of a secret meeting between Assange and Google’s Eric Schmidt, on June 2011. Assange and Schmidt discussed, from radically opposing perspectives, “the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network – from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin.”
“Both fascinating and alarming, it contains an edited transcript of their conversation and extensive, new material, written by Assange specifically for this book, providing the best available summary of his vision for the future of the Internet.”
Of course, the book can be purchased with Bitcoin. I am reading it, and I look forward to writing a full review.
Images from Shutterstock.