Bitcoin Donations to WikiLeaks Surge After Julian Assange's Arrest

Francisco Memoria

Earlier today, April 11, 2019 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been staying for seven years. Since the arrest, the organization he founded has seen a surge in bitcoin and cryptocurrency donations.

According to the BBC, Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden over a since dropped sexual assault case. Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, claims to have withdrawin his asylum after repeated violations of international conventions, and Assange is now facing US federal conspiracy charges related to government secrets leaks.

If convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, he faces up to five years in a US prison. While initially Moreno claimed asylum was withdrawn over Assange’s violations, it was quickly found the US was looking to get its hands on him.

WikiLeaks was notably one of the first organizations in the world to adopt bitcoin as an alternative currency. It adopted the flagship cryptocurrency so early on that Satoshi Nakamoto– the person who created Bitcoin – expressed concern over the attention the then-nascent project was getting.

In a post on the Bitcointalk forum, Satoshi Nakamoto noted that it would be nice to get the attention Wikileaks was bringing in a different context, adding that “WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet's nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”

After Assange’s arrest, various prominent figures in the crypto space started pointing towards the organizations’ donations page, which reveals it doesn’t just accept traditional methods such as bank transfers, but also bitcoin and zcash.

Cobra Bitcoin, a co-owner of the Bitcoin.org domain – which was initially registered by Satoshi Nakamoto – has expressed his views on the subject on Twitter.

Given the community’s support, donations started pouring in. Blockchain data shows Wikileaks’ wallet currently holds over 3.75 BTC ($18,900) in it, with well over 1 BTC coming after news of Assange’s arrest spread.

Balance of WikiLeaks' bitcoin address over timeSource:Blockchain.com

Setting a Precedent

Various well-known personalities on the microblogging platform further expressed their concern over what the US was doing, as they believe it may set a precedent against free speech and freedom of the press.

This, as Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ work is award-winning journalism for the information it brought to the public. Reacting to the developments UK Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that “this goes to show that in the UK, no one is above the law.”

However, press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders revealed a dangerous precedent may have been set for journalists and whistleblowers as it shows the US may wish to pursue them in the future.

It’s worth pointing out that Coinbase, a popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange, has banned WikiLeaks’ shop from its platform “without notice or explanation” back in April of last year, prompting the organization to consider calling a blockade against the exchange.