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Julian Assange’s Reddit AMA is a classic internet trainwreck

Updated 6 years ago
Published Jan 10th, 2017 12:38PM EST
Wikileaks News

Earlier today, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange decided to hold an AMA on Reddit. A virtual online press conference is exactly the kind of thing the attention-hungry Wikileaker craves, but today, things aren’t going to plan for him.

Per Reddit custom, Assange announced the thread early, so that questions could be asked and upvoted to provide a list of popular questions to answer. Unfortunately for Assange, the most-upvoted questions are probably not the kind of thing he wants to answer:

People frequently group you together with Edward Snowden because you’ve both released classified American documents. But your motivations and philospophies couldn’t be more different.

Snowden claims to fight for privacy. He’s called privacy the bedrock of freedom, that one cannot be free without privacy.

You have called privacy obsolete and unsustainable. You’ve said that privacy has no inherent value. You appear to believe privacy and freedom are incompatible, that you cannot be free if others can keep secrets from you. You’ve published the credit card numbers, social security numbers, medical information, and sexual preferences of individuals of zero public interest. Two of your most recent publications are the personal Gmail inboxes of civilians, exactly the sort of thing Snowden has tried to protect.

Can you convince me that you’re right and Snowden’s wrong?

Or this:

In 2010 you thanked people for donating money to help decrypt the “Collateral Murder” video after having sollicited donations for “supercomputer time.”

PFC Manning claims that the video was “was never really encrypted.” Her court martial proceedings confirm that.

I know you can’t confirm or deny anything regarding Manning, but do you stand by your claim that the video you received was encrypted and that you depended on donations to decript it? Secondly, how importantly do you value honesty when it comes to fundraising?

Or, questions surrounding Wikileak’s Russian ties:

Please address the allegations that WikiLeaks has a friendly relationship with Russia and cannot be considered objective with their leaks and their agenda. The timeline that makes these allegations seem plausible:

Since you are so adamant that Russia was not involved in the recent leaks that played a major role in the US presidential election, it would be helpful if you can make a compelling case for why Americans should trust you over their own intelligence agencies whose reason for existence is to defend the US against foreign threats and who are saying the opposite about Russian involvement.

In a break with the usual Reddit protocol, Assange is answering questions via a live Twitch feed, instead of typing out comment replies. That’s made it slightly easier for him to ignore the more probing questions, and thus far he’s made a couple of mostly-irrelevant comments on the Reddit thread.

Sometimes, holding an AMA can work well for a public figure to get their point across. But when there’s pending questions about, say, an organization’s role in upsetting the course of democracy, Reddit Q&As don’t tend to come out so well.