WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will address a political rally in the metaverse, as part of a virtual protest against the guerrilla publisher’s extradition to the U.S., where he is wanted on charges of espionage.
Organized by the ‘Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign,’ the event will take place on Aug. 26 in Wistaverse, a nonprofit metaverse in The Sandbox ecosystem on the Polygon blockchain. Wistaverse claims to be “the first metaverse dedicated to protests.”
A metaverse protest for free speech
Assange has been imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019. He is fighting extradition to the U.S., where he could face up to 175 years in prison for publishing information about U.S. military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to a statement shared with MetaNews, Assange will appear at the virtual political rally and deliver pre-recorded speeches. Former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Assange’s wife Stella, and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson will also speak during the event.
John Rees, a representative of the Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign, the official lobby group working with the Assange family to stop the journalist’s extradition, said the metaverse protest is aimed at rallying for press freedom and free speech.
“This event in the Wistaverse is a valuable opportunity to unite people … who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press to show their support for Julian and set a signal that will be an important precedent for human rights everywhere,” he explained.
The Wistaverse virtual court
The rally will be held “in a virtual auditorium designed to look like the Royal Courts of Justice in London where Assange is set to face his final appeal in the UK court system.” Organizers hope to build up support for a real-life protest at the court once a trial date is announced.
Wistaverse said “speakers at the rally will appear either as characters inside the event or with filmed contributions shown on screens inside the arena.”
People in the Wistaverse metaverse typically appear as an avatar that can listen to speeches and watch material inside the virtual rally, while interacting with other participants. Users are free to hide their identities for privacy reasons, the platform says.
“The new Web3 technologies are enabling unprecedented participation and the opportunity for everyone to shape worldwide governance,” said a Wistaverse spokesperson.
Anyone with access to Internet and a computer can take part in the Julian Assange metaverse rally on the dedicated website in The Sandbox.
WikiLeaks’ Bitcoin and web3 connection
In 2019, Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa described his successor Lenin Moreno, as “the greatest traitor in political history.” This after Moreno revoked Julian Assange‘s asylum and gave him up to possible jail time in the U.S. He remains detained in a UK prison.
The WikiLeaks founding editor had been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years, under asylum from Correa. He was wanted by the UK and Sweden on various charges. The U.S. wanted Assange extradited for conspiracy to leak its military secrets.
Australian-born Assange is one of the most recognizable figures to have faced the full might of the U.S. government for speaking truth to power. Following his arrest, WikiLeaks’ Bitcoin address, used to avert financial censorship, received a deluge of donations in support.
Bitcoin and WikiLeaks go back to 2011. The cryptocurrency kept financial assistance flowing to the dissident publisher after Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, and Bank of America disabled services to Wikileaks under political pressure from the U.S.
In return, Bitcoin (BTC), then newly incepted at just under two years old, enjoyed international attention for the Wikileaks association. In 2022, a decentralized autonomous organization Assange DAO raised over $53 million for Julian to help with the running legal battles.
More importantly, WikiLeaks and Bitcoin’s informal alliance suggests the need for more entities that thrive outside state and corporate control.