Challenge Spartacus: An Act of Solidarity For Julian Assange


This text is featured in Bitcoin Journal’s “The Inscription Problem”. Click on here to get your Annual Bitcoin Journal Subscription.

Bitcoin has for many of its lifetime been seen as a financial community, whereby customers can ship and obtain the native token BTC. Given the great worth appreciation since its inception in 2009, the financial good additionally grew to become a retailer of worth — a method by means of which somebody might retailer their priceless work hours in order to not have them debased and as an alternative expertise a rise of buying energy moderately than a loss.

Not all customers are alike, nevertheless. Regardless of the recognition of those financial narratives, some outcasts have used Bitcoin for all types of functions all through time. Most notably, Julian Assange, a now-famous journalist and political prisoner, creator of WikiLeaks, used Bitcoin for various causes, together with as a proof-of-life mechanism and a verifiable proof-of-publishing. To Assange, Bitcoin was and nonetheless is far more than a distributed financial system that solves the double-spending drawback inherent in digital money. For the journalist, Bitcoin can function far more, and whereas he battles for his life, others have joined him in that mission.

Now, earlier than diving into the intricacies of what Bitcoin is and may be to Assange and his supporters, let’s take a step again and see what the journalist has completed with this digital coin because the first time his NGO embraced bitcoin.

In 2010, shortly after the publishing of U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks within the notorious Chelsea Manning leaks, Assange’s group was lower from the worldwide banking system as Financial institution of America, Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal stopped serving the net platform. That actuality led Assange to undertake bitcoin, and in June 2011 WikiLeak’s Twitter account introduced they’d begin accepting bitcoin donations.

Apparently, WikiLeaks voiced curiosity in adopting bitcoin a lot sooner than June 2011, and in line with posts in then-popular discussion board BitcoinTalk, Satoshi discouraged Assange from pursuing that route in December 2010. Their purpose? “Bitcoin is a small beta neighborhood in its infancy. You wouldn’t stand to get greater than pocket change, and the warmth you’ll convey would seemingly destroy us at this stage.” WikiLeaks patiently waited one other six months earlier than accepting bitcoin.

Sarcastically, Assange would later reward the U.S. authorities for allegedly issuing this coordinated assault, which in fact led to WikiLeak’s embrace of bitcoin and subsequently resulted in a capital appreciation in greenback phrases of over a thousand %. It’s each fascinating and comical that the very fact WikiLeaks obtained locked out of the mainstream monetary system for merely publishing leaked paperwork would make them a a lot better monetary state of affairs — one by which they didn’t must ask permission and will get pleasure from nice financial beneficial properties in greenback phrases. Poetic.

In September 2014, Assange would begin hinting on the different doable use circumstances he noticed for Bitcoin, which, given his tone and supply, leads one to imagine he was far more enthusiastic about that than monetary hypothesis — nevertheless massive the beneficial properties may very well be with the financial use case:

“Bitcoin is an especially necessary innovation, however not in the way in which most individuals assume. Bitcoin’s actual innovation is a globally verifiable proof of publishing at a sure time. The entire system is constructed on that idea and lots of different programs will also be constructed on it. The blockchain nails down historical past, breaking Orwell’s dictum of ‘He who controls the current controls the previous and he who controls the previous controls the long run’.”

A few years later, the usage of Bitcoin as a timestamping server for WikiLeaks paperwork started to emerge, albeit it wasn’t clear if it was WikiLeaks itself doing the timestamps or grassroots activists. A Reddit person posted on r/WikiLeaks that somebody had timestamped the hashes of some WikiLeaks torrent recordsdata, seemingly utilizing OpenTimestamps — an open supply software created by Bitcoin developer Peter Todd for this goal.

Gabriel Shipton, movie producer and Assange’s brother, talked with Bitcoin Journal concerning the early days of his brother’s interactions with bitcoin:

“Julian acknowledged in 2011 the facility of bitcoin to construct ‘an mental scaffold’ for civilization, a protocol that will permit any reference to human mental contributions to be independently verified, with out counting on any group. Bitcoin so drastically excited him not solely resulting from it being probably the most censorship-resistant method of publishing doable, but additionally of what it supplied: The flexibility to assemble an excellent marvel of information, an important software in humanity’s wrestle towards ignorance.”

Assange’s thought course of on Bitcoin use circumstances is significant not solely as a result of they make clear a very novel use for the decentralized community, but additionally due to how early they had been uttered. Assange noticed this potential over a decade in the past, but it surely wouldn’t be till the discharge of Ordinals that this use case could be popularized in a significant approach.

Ordinals, launched on Bitcoin mainnet at the beginning of 2023, permits anybody to effortlessly add arbitrary knowledge to a Bitcoin block at any given second. As soon as that knowledge is added, it inherits Bitcoin’s immutability and safety, and may obtain Assange’s imaginative and prescient of a verifiable proof-of-publishing at that second. Inscriptions go even additional. Along with simply housing a timestamp enabling proof-of-publishing, which customers tried with torrent tracker recordsdata as early as 2016, Ordinals permits the direct publishing of the info itself on Bitcoin. Not solely is there an immutable document of the time and date in block peak phrases, there may be now additionally the chance to publish the precise contents of the article or torrent hyperlink itself. A brand new period of blockspace utilization for Bitcoin.

Naturally, we’ve seen the launch of this new protocol result in an entire slew of JPEGs being revealed in blocks. Within the early days, some had been simply random memes, however not lengthy after its launch, inscribers began getting refined, creating recursion strategies, and even teleburning Ethereum-based NFT collections. Now, almost a full 12 months later, Ordinals have spun a wholly new ecosystem in Bitcoin, enabling all completely different sorts of creative and software program developments to happen on the “mom chain”.

Nonetheless, some initiatives started to emerge that attempt to cater to Assange’s imaginative and prescient from approach again in 2014. These initiatives fluctuate in form, measurement, and kind, however all appear to hunt Bitcoin and the chances led to by Ordinals to really do one thing greater than speculate on the photographs and movies revealed on Bitcoin.

Most notably, a undertaking emerged in October 2023 that sought to allow anybody on this planet so as to add to Bitcoin the cables revealed within the leaks that initially locked WikiLeaks out of the worldwide monetary system again in 2010. Because of Ordinals, this undertaking was in a position to permit not solely the timestamping of the cables, however the precise inscribing and storing of the unadulterated content material itself. Challenge Spartacus turned Bitcoin right into a type of Library of Alexandria — one that can’t be altered or destroyed, irrespective of how highly effective the adversary.

On this case, the leaks expose warfare crimes by the USA army and authorities, and expose information that stand in stark distinction to the principle narratives pushed by the media and the federal government itself about what was taking place on the bottom within the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

13 years after these cables turned a journalist right into a political prisoner, this grassroots undertaking emerged to face in solidarity with Assange and declare, “I’m Assange”. Alluding to the well-known “I’m Spartacus” scene within the 1960 film Spartacus, Challenge Spartacus invitations Bitcoin customers from everywhere in the world to say “I’m Assange” and inscribe into Bitcoin these cables that kickstarted every part.

Challenge Spartacus goals to take a stand towards freedom of data and data, making it not possible for anybody to mess with the info that Assange risked his life to make public. The journalist at the moment faces potential extradition to the U.S., regardless of being an Australian citizen and never having dedicated the alleged offenses on U.S. soil. The end result of the extradition course of stays unsure, and considerations proceed to develop concerning his future and whether or not he’ll ever regain his freedom.

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Challenge Spartacus’ web site supplies a public interface by means of which any particular person can “inscribe” –– Ordinals jargon for including knowledge to Bitcoin –– a warfare log. There appear to be no charges related to this motion other than community charges, a crucial element to any transaction submitted to the Bitcoin community. The web page additionally includes a “donate” button, which opens up a panel by means of which customers can optionally ship bitcoin to Assange’s trigger. Donations are mentioned to go towards supporting the next organizations: Freedom of the Press Basis, The Data Rights Challenge, and Reporters With out Borders.

Bitcoin Journal spoke with the nameless creators of the know-how behind Challenge Spartacus, who shed some gentle on the method and mission:

“Every warfare log a person inscribes by means of Challenge Spartacus is a file containing the unique content material from one of many 76,911 Afghan Struggle Diary logs. We selected the Ordinals protocol for its widespread adoption, even in its infancy, as a typical for immutable knowledge storage, and just because we imagine Bitcoin is probably the most immutable and uncensorable know-how for this use case. As every log is inscribed, its knowledge is embedded into Bitcoin to be propagated and simply discovered by any of the various Bitcoin and Ordinals purchasers. We see this use case for Bitcoin to be important for human rights and freedom, and we hope that you’ll stand with Julian Assange by storing this delicate knowledge on Bitcoin with us.”

Upon navigating to the web site, the person finds an enormous rectangular button on the principle web page, studying “Publish Struggle Log”. Upon clicking, the method of inscribing a warfare log is triggered. The person is given the choice to decide on what number of logs to inscribe, with a most of 300 warfare logs per transaction. The person can then choose the transaction payment, primarily based on which a complete quantity for cost is calculated. Upon hitting “proceed”, the person is then presumably redirected for cost.

The creators of Challenge Spartacus gave the recordsdata a graphical remedy by selecting SVG recordsdata, which nonetheless comprise the uncooked log knowledge as a remark discipline, whereas giving the person a strategy to simply view the knowledge. The undertaking takes a spin on Ordinals’ well-liked use case of digital artifacts to deal with full knowledge finality on a decentralized chain of data, run by tens of hundreds of nodes in tons of of various jurisdictions around the globe.

On this sense, as Assange as soon as envisioned, Bitcoin has certainly turn out to be greater than only a monetary asset — it’s now a beacon of hope for these preventing towards the suppression of reality and the distortion of historical past.

This text is featured in Bitcoin Journal’s “The Inscription Problem”. Click on here to get your Annual Bitcoin Journal Subscription.

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