Jerry Jackson

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Assange: Facebook is an ‘appalling spy machine’

In Big Business, Human Rights, Internet Censorship, Police State, Society, Wikileaks on May 14, 2011 at 12:07 am


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Illustration of Facebook mobile interface

Image via Wikipedia

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are actually tools for the U.S. intelligence community.

Speaking to Russian news site RT in an interview published yesterday, Assange was especially critical of the world’s top social network. He reportedly said that the information Facebook houses is a potential boon for the U.S. government if it tries to build up a dossier on users.

“Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,” Assange said in the interview, which was videotaped and published on the site. “Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence.”

If that’s the case, it might surprise some that WikiLeaks has its very own Facebook page. In fact, last year, when WikiLeaks released a controversial batch of confidential documents–putting Assange on the run–Facebook refused to shut down that page. The company said at the time that the page did not “violate our content standards nor have we encountered any material posted on the page that violates our policies.”

Facebook’s response stood in stark contrast to the treatment of WikiLeaks by many other companies in the U.S. last year. Several firms, including PayPal, blocked the company’s accounts.

But Assange didn’t just stop at Facebook. He also told RT that in addition to the world’s largest social network, Google and Yahoo “have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence.”

“It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena,” he told RT. “They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use.”

Surprisingly, Assange didn’t mention Twitter, another major social network with which his organization has run into trouble.

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department sent a court order to Twitter, requesting the social network deliver information from accounts of activists that allegedly had ties to WikiLeaks. In March, the Justice Department was granted access to those accounts following a judge’s ruling in favor of the seizure. Last month, the Justice Department said that complaints over its desire to obtain Twitter information is “absurd,” and its actions are quite common in criminal investigations.

However, the Justice Department didn’t secure a search warrant for access to the information. Instead, it obtained a 2703(d) order, allowing investigators to secure online records that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

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For U.S. intelligence, getting information from Facebook is much easier, Assange said in the interview. He reportedly told RT that the U.S. intelligence community’s use of “legal and political pressure” on Facebook is enough for it get what it wants.

“Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them,” Assange said, according to the RT interview.

For its part, Facebook disagrees with Assange’s sentiment. In a written statement to CNET, a Facebook spokesman said that it does only what’s legal–and nothing more.

“We don’t respond to pressure, we respond to compulsory legal process,” the spokesman told CNET. “There has never been a time we have been pressured to turn over data [and] we fight every time we believe the legal process is insufficient. The legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard.”


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Assange: “WikiLeaks is the intelligence agency of the people”

In Activism, Hacktivist, Human Rights, Internet Censorship, Society, Wikileaks, World News on April 5, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Julian Assange at New Media Days 09 in Copenhagen.

Image via Wikipedia

The WikiLeaks chief discusses radical journalism and WikiLeaks’s main threat in an exclusive New Statesman essay.

In an exclusive essay for the New Statesman, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, argues that WikiLeaks is a return to the days of the once popular radical press. He also discusses why the New York Times dislikes the whistle-blowing website, and reveals the biggest threat to WikiLeaks today.

“WikiLeaks is part of an honourable tradition that expands the scope of freedom by trying to lay ‘all the mysteries and secrets of government’ before the public,” writes Assange, who compares WikiLeaks to the pamphleteers of the English Civil War and the radical press of the early twentieth century. “We are, in a sense, a pure expression of what the media should be: an intelligence agency of the people, casting pearls before swine.”

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Assange argues that the New York Times‘s hostility to WikiLeaks stems from the newspaper’s illiberal tradition of failing to back organisations or figures which challenge established elites. He highlights the newspaper’s failure to support the American pacifist and anti-war campaigner Eugene Debs, who was imprisoned for ten years for making an anti-war speech in 1918.

“The New York Times, true to form, had been calling for [Debs’s] imprisonment for more than two decades, saying in an editorial of 9 July 1894 that Debs was ‘a lawbreaker at large, an enemy of the human race. There has been quite enough talk about warrants against him and about arresting him,'” writes Assange. “Seen within this historical perspective, the New York Times‘s performance in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, and its hostile attitude to WikiLeaks today, are not surprising.” WikiLeaks only agreed to work with the newspaper, among others, in its major leaks “for reasons of realpolitik”, according to Assange.

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WikiLeaks is able to succeed because, unlike many of its forebears, it does not rely on advertisers, he continues. “As well as the hostility of governments, popular grass-roots publishers have had to face the realities of advertising as a source of revenue. [T]he Daily Herald…was forced to close despite being among the 20 largest-circulation dailies in the world, because its largely working-class readers did not constitute a lucrative advertising market.”

WikiLeaks, however, has other problems, writes Assange: “How do we deal with an extrajudicial financial blockade by Bank of America, Visa (including Visa Europe, registered in London), MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union, the Swiss PostFinance, Moneybookers and other finance companies, all keen to curry favour with Washington?”

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