Weaky-leaks: Furious fans roast Assange in web interview from hell
Ecuadorian broom cupboard denizen refuses to cough up info for once
Video WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was blasted by fans during a live online Q&A – after he, for once in his life, refused to disclose information.
The nearly five-year resident of the Ecuadorian embassy in London hopped onto Reddit's Ask Me Anything discussion board where netizens pose questions and the most popular ones rise to the top of the list to be answered. But as the session on Tuesday started, it quickly became clear that the most requested questions weren’t getting responses.
“For someone who claims they’re all about transparency and openness, your answers here really don’t live up to those lofty ideals,” noted Velocity_Rob. “Terse one word answers, ignoring really pertinent questions, what exactly is the point of this AMA?”
The most popular questions related to WikiLeaks’ relationship with Russia, why it decided to leak Democratic Party emails when it did, Assange’s recent rapprochement with Fox News, and Edward Snowden. But as the AMA wore on and no answers were forthcoming, users started getting annoyed.
The AMA was an unusual one as well, particularly for someone with such spotty internet access. Rather than type answers, Assange answered them via video. That forced people to switch back and forth between the Reddit message board and a Twitch.tv live-stream, causing confusion and irritation: it wasn't clear if questions were being seen or ignored, and those unable to watch the live video were missing Assange's answers.
After a false start due to low sound levels, Assange spoke for over an hour, and by the end of the session he’d covered most bases – albeit with very brief answers in some cases – and somewhat mollified the online mob.
Here's a recording of the live stream:
First, for the alarming numbers of people out there who seem to believe it, Assange assured viewers that he wasn’t dead. He was asked to give some proof by recounting something recent and opted for a Bitcoin blockchain hash, which he promptly got wrong.
“While it’s intellectually entertaining, it’s not at all a good type of proof of currency. But, I’ll give one anyway, so this is block 445706 and the hash is 178374F687728789CAA92ECB49,” he said.
“OK, I think I made a mistake in the block number, which is going to drive everyone crazy! So, the block number 447506. This is how you can tell it’s real time because of mistakes! Hash 178374F687728789CAA92ECB49.”
On the Russia question, Assange said that the organization never confirms or denies the identity of sources. WikiLeaks has published over 800,000 documents relating to Russia or Vladimir Putin, he said, and most of those were critical.
With regards to WikiLeaks’ role in the last election, Assange said that it had decided to release the entire file set at once because staffing constraints and budgetary requirements had left the group little choice. It also wanted to get them out there so the Democratic Party wouldn’t have a chance to spin them, he said.
Assange admitted that he had indicated he also had dirt on the Republican Party, but had decided not to publish it as, on further examination, it contained details that had already been put in the public domain.
Speaking of public domain – Assange did disavow a (since deleted) tweet by his organization's support group, the WikiLeaks Task Force. On December 6, the fan club made a rather unnerving suggestion.
“We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships,” the task force tweeted.
In a followup response, the fan club downplayed the suggestion, saying it was simply a way to identify key influencers on the social network – an explanation backed by Assange. At the time El Reg gave a response to the task force's creepy plan in our usual manner:
OK sure, WikiLeaks Stasi Force, we’ll go first. Here’s our address:— The Register (@TheRegister) January 6, 2017
123 Go Fuck Yourself Street
San Francisco, CA 🇺🇸 https://t.co/Uy2jqgxTOU
When asked about Edward Snowden, Assange said he was at odds with the way in which the NSA whistleblower disclosed his stolen documents. Assange believes in full disclosure – dumping everything you've got online unredacted – whereas Snowden handed over his archive to journalists, who have since not published the vast majority of the top-secret files.
Assange was silent on his recent interview with Fox and his rapprochement with the Republican Party, popular though those questions were. In fact, very few questions got answers at all, and the majority of the broadcast was more about Assange’s world view than giving answers to questions.
Still, as AMAs go it wasn’t the worst. Not good, but nowhere near as bad as Woody Harrelson’s ill‑advised Rampart promotion, Morgan Freeman apparently passing it off to his PR to handle, or Wyclef Jean’s stonewalling of questions about charity spending.
Transcripts of what Assange said were eventually posted on Reddit a day after the live Q&A ended. We appreciate that St Jules wanted to be on camera to prove that he was alive and that he was the one typing out the responses. However, for someone who has devoted his career to open disclosure, he could have handled the process a lot better. ®