Bitcoin donations to WikiLeaks increased 1,894% yesterday after Julian Assange pledged his support to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
The Blockchain shows 0.36 bitcoins were transferred to the WikiLeaks wallet address on Sunday, increasing to 7.18 BTC on Monday, following Assange's telephone conference call with reporters.
"I have personal sympathy with Snowden having gone through similar personal experiences," Time Magazine reports Assange as saying during the 75-minute call.
The WikiLeaks founder is currently residing in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been for the past year, fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual-assault charges. He recently claimed he would not leave the embassy even if the sex charges were dropped as he fears moves are underway to extradite him to the US over the leaking of sensitive information to his whistle-blowing website.
Snowden, however, is currently on the run after leaking details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.
Assange said yesterday that Snowden was "healthy and safe", but would not offer any further insight into where the 29-year-old was or when and how they had spoken. "If we lived in a better world we would be able to go into those details. Unfortunately, we live in a world, as illuminated by Mr Snowden, where most communications are intercepted unlawfully."
It was thought Snowden had travelled from Hong Kong to Russia on Sunday morning, but Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced today that the former technical contractor and CIA employee had not crossed the border into the country.
Wherever he is, it is thought he is now receiving bitcoin donations via WikiLeaks, allowing him to make transactions that cannot be traced by the CIA. This form of transfer also gives anonymity to those making donations.
"Supporters know their donation is more difficult to track back to them than a wire transfer would be," said Tuur Demeester of MacroTrends.
Since Assange's talk with the press yesterday, 14.85 BTC (currently worth around $1,568) have been donated to WikiLeaks.
Back in December 2010, Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union blocked donations to WikiLeaks following the release of secret US diplomatic cables the previous month. There are fears a similar block could be enforced again in the future, which is another reason why bitcoin donations are increasing in popularity.
"WikiLeaks supporters know their donations cannot be blocked and that funds that are not used immediately will appreciate over time," said Demeester.
He went on to explain that the 800 BTC donated to WikiLeaks up until August last year was worth approximately $8,000 at the time, but now those same bitcoins are worth ten times that amount – around $80,000.
But perhaps the increase in bitcoin donations is motivated by more than just a desire for anonymity and confidence that the currency will appreciate in value, maybe it is a further display of bitcoiners' anti-government sentiment and their championing of freedom of information.
"I think it confirms that freedom of speech and the right to privacy are indeed values that are dear to the bitcoin community," said Demeester.
"Rather than posting a meme on Facebook, people are discovering that, with Bitcoin, they can send actual resources straight to the heart of the cause they wish to support – in this case WikiLeaks and the courageous Mr Snowden," he concluded.
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