WikiLeaks's Assange warns the internet may enslave us all
A new book by the digital world's most famous whistleblower says we're heading into a near future where the net will be used to control us
WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange made his name using the web to promote freedom, but the internet is now "the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen," his new book says.
Assange wrote the introduction to Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the internet in the small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been holed up for more than five months seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault claims. He calls the book, which was published yesterday in digital and print form, a "watchman's shout in the night" warning that the net can either free us or enslave us.
The Guardian says the 192-page book warns of an impending "postmodern surveillance dystopia" which only the most skilled individuals will be able to escape. "In fact, we may already be there," says Assange.
But Laurie Penny, writing in the New Statesman, calls it a "bombastic manifesto" written by an author [Assange] with the subtlety of "a placard-banging street-corner doomsayer". She adds: "At present, the only solution from Assange and his cypherpunks seems to be for everyone to become competent at digital encryption, which is not going to happen any time soon."
The left-wing Hollywood director Oliver Stone is more encouraging, calling Cypherpunks "gripping, vital reading". Journalist John Pilger, a staunch supporter of the Australian whistleblower, describes it as "above all, a warning to all".
The book is based on an interview conducted online earlier this year between Assange and three "fellow cutting-edge thinkers", Jacob Applebaum, Jeremie Zimmermann and Andy Muller-Maguhn.
Publisher OR Books has not revealed how much Assange has been paid, says RT, the Russian news channel which re-broadcast the original online debate.
OR Books will be hoping Cypherpunks is more successful than Assange's last foray into publishing. He tried to cancel a million-pound deal with his British publisher for his autobiography late last year, but Canongate Books published an "unauthorised" first draft against his wishes. The book sold poorly and the bitter dispute over a £500,000 advance, which Assange reportedly used to settle legal bills, was blamed for Canongate posting an operating loss in 2011, says The Herald.