WikiLeaks’ Assange Accuses Google & Facebook Of Influencing Brexit Vote

Britain Wikileaks Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange looks up as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. A U.N. human rights panel says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been squirreled away inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid questioning by Swedish authorities about sexual misconduct allegations, has been “arbitrarily detained” by Britain and Sweden since December 2010. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said his detention should end and he should be entitled to compensation. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON — WikiLeaks says its founder, Julian Assange, could be freed as a consequence of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union.

June 19 marked the 4th anniversary of the day Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London under asylum, where he remains confined despite the United Nations’ assertion that his confinement constitutes “arbitrary detention.”

Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of improper sexual behavior with two women. He was granted political asylum by Ecuador over fears that he would be extradited from Sweden to the United States, where he could face decades in prison thanks to a secretive federal grand jury convened to consider charges over WikiLeaks’ hosting of classified, leaked documents.

But on Thursday, in the so-called “Brexit” referendum, U.K. residents narrowly voted to leave the EU, and Assange believes this historic moment could eventually lead to a dramatic change in his circumstances.

Appearing by video connection from the embassy in a June 12 interview with the ITV News program “Peston on Sunday,” Assange told host Robert Peston that because he’s facing arrest under a European arrest warrant (or EAW), the U.K. claims it’s forced to engage in an “extremely expensive siege” of the embassy. Round-the-clock monitoring of the embassy, which would enable British authorities to immediately place Assange under arrest if he steps outside, has cost the U.K. about £15 million, according to a live counter published by GovWaste.co.uk.

“That’s a fundamental basis of sovereignty, is random officials in the rest of the European Union can’t suddenly force your police to arrest people,” Assange said, noting that he is not the only person in this situation. He said this was one reason he personally supported a “Leave” vote on the Brexit referendum.

Watch “Julian Assange interview” from “Peston on Sunday”

Speaking more broadly, Assange told Peston, “The U.K. is bad for the EU, but also the EU is bad for the U.K. because it permits a lack of democratic accountability in this country” by allowing the British government to support neoconservative policies while blaming them on EU legislation.

The WikiLeaks founder also accused tech companies like Facebook and Google of trying to leverage their control over users’ online experience to influence the Brexit vote.

During a roundtable discussion of the Brexit hosted live on YouTube, Assange reported that Facebook was urging its users in the U.K. to go out and vote, and to use status updates to inform their friends that they’d voted. He called this campaign “a political statement” not just endorsing the referendum, but attempting to influence it. The demographics of Facebook users often skew toward younger people, who also tended to vote for the U.K. to remain in the EU.

Assange said Google was “even worse” than Facebook in its attempts to influence the vote, because Google’s homepage featured a link to the British government’s Brexit homepage, “and of course the government is pushing to stay in.”

“Both these titanic American companies … [were] trying to influence the vote,” he noted.

Watch “Brexit Club Live Stream” from WikiLeaks

 

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