Did Julian Assange Just Use the Bitcoin Blockchain to Prove He Is Alive?

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, read yesterday the bitcoin blockchain hash of block 447506 during a recorded video. At the time, it represented the most recent bitcoin block published to the blockchain. Experts contend this is proof that Mr. Assange is alive – or at least that the video, in which the whistleblower appears uncoerced, was not pre-recorded.

Also Read: WikiLeaks Has Raised 4,000+ BTC Since 2011

Bitcoin’s Blockchain is Public and Immutable


There had been some speculation that Mr. Assange was dead or lost control of his online identity. Instead of holding up today’s newspaper, as might have happened historically, the Australia-native used the blockchain technology to prove he is alive, contained at the Ecuadorian embassy. He referred to it as “proof of life.”

As a public cryptographic ledger, the bitcoin blockchain allows anyone to “mine” and add pieces of information (known as ‘blocks’) to the blockchain, but only upon completing a computer process known as “proof of work”.

Bitcoin’s hash algorithm, known as SHA256, scrambles data stored in the blocks (in the case of bitcoin, mostly transaction data) into a string of letters and numbers referred to as a hash. Knowing what data went into creating a hash is very hard. However, it is very easy to determine the hash of a particular piece of data.

A bitcoin block hash represents a random group of letters and number virtually impossible to predict. Once distributed via the blockchain, however, the hash is widely available and cannot be altered. By reading the most recently published block hash, Mr. Assange could prove today’s interview had not been pre-recorded.

Bitcoin Removes Financial Blockades

WikiLeaks June 14, 2011 Bitcoin Donations Announcement
WikiLeaks June 14, 2011, Bitcoin Donations Announcement

When WikiLeaks released a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010, the non-profit lost access to the banking system on December 7, 2010. Since Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal stopped serving Wikileaks, the group – known for aiding in the Chelsea Manning leaks – began accepting bitcoin.

WikiLeaks offers private bitcoin addresses for larger donations, so it’s tough to know how many bitcoins the service has received. Through 626 days of the financial blockade in August 2012, as reported by Jon Matonis for Forbes, Wikileaks had received (on just its public bitcoin address) more than $32,000 equivalent in over 1,100 separate bitcoin donations. 1BTC was worth $10 at that time.

As of November 30, 2016, WikiLeaks had raised 4,000 bitcoin since 2011. The address received its 4,000th bitcoin in December 2016. In September of 2014 during a Reddit AMA, Assange spoke highly of the bitcoin blockchain:

Bitcoin is an extremely important innovation, but not in the way most people think. Bitcoin’s real innovation is a globally verifiable proof of publishing at a certain time. The whole system is built on that concept and many other systems can also be built on it. 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.

In his book, Mr. Assange allegedly details the process by which WikiLeaks came to accepting bitcoin donations, including discussions on forums with the pseudonymous founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, who wrote:

The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way. 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.

Indeed, WikiLeaks heeded the advice of Satoshi Nakamoto. Assange states that “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.”

Alive, Held Against his Will

During the interview recorded today, Mr. Assange did not seem to be under duress. He implored viewers, however, not to take this as a sign that everything’s coming up roses.

“Don’t take some cryptographic proof as evidence that I am OK,” Mr. Assange said. “I’m not, I have been held here for 8 years. I haven’t been OK the entire time.”

What do you think about Julian Assange’s ‘proof of life’ interview? Let us know in the comments below.

Images via Shutterstock, Twitter, and Pixabay.

Bitcoin.com is ramping up our tools section with a variety of useful Bitcoin-related applications. There’s a price converter, paper wallet generator, a faucet, and a verifier to validate messages using the Bitcoin blockchain. We’re pretty excited to introduce these new widgets and tools so our visitors have the best resources to navigate the Bitcoin landscape.

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  • gigawatt

    He’s not being “held against his will”. He *chooses* to live in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, to avoid extradition to Sweden where criminal sexual assault charges have been filed against him. His claim that the sexual assault charges are just a ploy, by Swedish and British authorities, to get him into police custody so that he can actually be extradited to the U.S. and thrown into a maximum security prison alongside whistleblower Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning may very well be true — the Ecuadorian government seems to believe it. But still, he is not “being held”, at least not yet.

    • Johnny

      Uhm nope. The sexual assault charged have been lifted.

    • Jenny Maher

      The Swedish prosecutor interviewed him in the Embassy a couple of months ago. Since then, they haven’t either released any statement on what happens next or formally charged Assange. He was wanted for questioning. No charges had been filed, and still no charges have been filed.

    • Diana Forsea

      Assange broke no laws and the UN said, he is being arbitrarily detained. That means, he is being held illegally. If he goes to face charges, he will be extradicted to the US for an unfair trial. The US treats whistleblowers and journalists like spies. Assange’s situation is not one, in which he can leave. He is being politically persecuted because, he exposed the corruption of powerful people. The two women said, they were not raped and officials pushed them to file reports. Three prosecutors turned down the case because, the reports lacked substance. They had to go way out of the area, to find someone to take the case. The UN recommended Assange be freed and compensated.

    • AuraSunset

      No charge has been filed against Julian. He was wanted for questioning and has been questioned. There is no evidence that he committed any offence and the supposed ‘victim’ has stated several times that he didn’t. If he leaves the embassy he will be arrested. That IS being held against his will. He doesn’t have the option to freely reside anywhere else, so yes, he is being held, illegally.

  • Diana Forsea

    Could the image in the live stream be CGI?

    • Lemming

      Oh god don’t, you’ll have all the idiots demanding proof of life again xD

      • Clint Horton

        it’s not idiotic to demand proof of anything that is unproven. If anything it’s idiotic to avoid demanding proof of something unproven for the sake of saving face

  • Brawndo_ItsWhatPlantsCRAVE

    We will see soon- that this sebatical … has been to archive the promised NYPD data. They are simply waiting until Obama loses ability to pardon…. then going for jugular. Ive been predicting this for weeks now. Can check my history.

    Give it some time though. This leak is going to be DEVASTATING… and it will be instant “swampdraino”. THIS is why we see the media in such a panic (including and especially politicians)= b/c they KNOW what is going to be exposed (about them exposing themselves). Too much childish panic to think anything else is coming.

    • George O

      Poor grammar and spelling damage your credibility, @ColorMehJewish:disqus . So does not including a link to anything regarding this ‘NYPD data’ you speak of. “sebatical”? “Ive”? etc.

  • Bob Blackadder

    Me think he doth protest too much. If he’s going out of his way to prove he’s alive, it means he knows people have started to question whether its really him in anymore since his actions reflect such pro-establishment views these days. Helping Putin, with a history of human rights violations, put a rich, tax dodging bigot and Koch brother friends in the White House seems like a very different Assange to the one we knew before he went into the Embassy.