On October 14, 2017, political refugee Julian Assange tweeted his thanks to the US government for blocking WikiLeaks’ payment options in the past, hinting that he had made a 50,000 percent return on his 2010 investment in Bitcoin.
On Reddit, Assange’s tweet was met with mixed feelings.
Rebels With a Cause
For some, Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are two peas in a pod. Assange has revealed government secrets the world over in the name of public interest, whereas Nakamoto’s genius created an alternative economy run on trustless and open access principles in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
WikiLeaks’ Banking Blockade
By 2010, the political whistleblower site had ruffled more than just a few governmental feathers. When classified US diplomatic cables were released in November of that year during the CableGate scandal, all major payment providers in the country blocked donations to WikiLeaks.
With payment portals such as VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union, and Bank of America no longer open to them, the organisation nearly tanked.
For more information on the banking blockade, read the WikiLeaks statement detailing the blockade and their reliance on outside donations.
The banking blockade necessitated the search for other payment options and a discussion began on the official forum for Bitcoin on the risks of involving cryptocurrency with WikiLeaks.
Bitcoin vs WikiLeaks
Nakamoto was not pleased by the idea, as he thought Bitcoin too young and vulnerable to become embroiled in political agendas.
In December 2010, Nakamoto publicly appealed to WikiLeaks not to become involved with Bitcoin and jeopardise its chance of success by drawing too much unwanted attention to it at an early stage.
“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.”
“WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”
Coincidentally, after a final post the next day, Nakamoto exited the Bitcoin development game and was never heard from again. Nakamoto handed over the proverbial keys to the kingdom to Gavin Andresen, a software developer who was instrumental in the early development of Bitcoin. In Andresen’s last communication with Nakamoto, he informed the legendary creator that he would be meeting with the CIA to discuss cryptocurrency.
WikiLeaks Heeds Nakamoto’s Plea
On 15 June 14, 2011 WikiLeaks announced that they would use Bitcoin to accept donations.
“WikiLeaks read and agreed with Satoshi’s analysis, and decided to put off the launch of a Bitcoin donation channel until the currency had become more established. WikiLeaks’ Bitcoin donation address was launched after the currency’s first major boom, on 14 June 2011.”
Assange also spoke about the importance of blockchain technology for society’s political future:
“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.”
Bring on the Bitcoin
To date, WikLeaks’ public Bitcoin address has seen a total of 26,210 transactions. At current rates, with 7.5 Bitcoins in the bank, the organisation is worth nearly US$43,000. Since the website enables benefactors to generate a private address, there’s no way of verifying how much WikiLeaks has received overall thanks to cryptocurrency donations.
Today, WikiLeaks accepts not only Bitcoin, but also Litecoin, Monero, and ZCash.
One thing is certain: reiterating the statement made by Assange, Bitcoin has indeed been a fruitful investment!