On the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Julian Assange’s Twitter account quietly disappeared, but now it’s back. There was nothing but caches left behind. A few hours later, Wikileaks’ and Embassy Cat’s accounts were still active, but neither had acknowledged this strange, mysterious development. And although some clues pointed to Assange’s possibly deleting the account himself, we don’t know for certain that’s what happened. One reporter said, however, that he had been in touch with Assange and the leader of WikiLeaks is fine. But he hadn’t verified this claim, which just left us with more questions. And while Assange was silent, many alt accounts were rising, trying to take his place. Then, later on Christmas, Assange’s account reappeared, but we’re still unsure what happened. Here’s everything that we know so far.
It’s Not Yet Known for Certain if Assange Deleted His Twitter Account Or If It Was Removed
The account @JulianAssange likely disappeared between midnight and 1 am GMT on Christmas. Gizmodo quickly reported that Assange had deleted his own account. The publication, however, didn’t provide much reason for this assertion, except to say that it “didn’t appear” that the account was suspended. A cache on Internet Archive from December 25 showed that Assange’s last tweet was on December 22. He hadn’t recently released a bombshell report, as some rumors were claiming, that might account for the change.
We can’t know for certain that he deactivated his own account. At least not yet. Yes, when Twitter suspends an account, you’ll see a message when you visit the account’s page telling you that the account has been suspended. But we know from when President Donald Trump’s account was deactivated from Twitter in November that it doesn’t always work that way. When a Twitter employee deactivated Trump’s account, we saw the same message that appears when someone deactivates their own account (and, subsequently, the same message showing for Assange.)
How was Trump’s account deleted without showing a message that it was suspended? The Twitter employee said that Trump’s account had been reported for violating the terms of service. It was the employee’s last day, so he “set the wheels in motion” to deactivate the account, never imagining that would really happen, But it did. Here’s what it looked like:
As an interesting addendum, if you look at Assange’s account on mobile, you’ll sometimes see this page instead:
The best clue we have so far about what happened is a strange tweet from WikiLeaks Task Force.
Unfortunately, that tweet doesn’t tell us much at all. WikiLeaks’ bio on Twitter doesn’t help either. Some have pointed out that Assange’s Twitter is no longer listed in the bio, but that change was actually made sometime between November 1 and November 11, according to archives,
WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account, @WikiLeaks, hasn’t said anything since Assange’s account disappeared. And Assange’s other account, @EmbassyCat, has also been silent.
But now Assange’s account is back, and he hasn’t said anything yet about what happened either.
One Reporter Said He Talked to Assange, But the News Hadn’t Been Verified
Charles C. Johnson, a reporter who owns GotNews, said that he has been in touch with Assange since the account went down. He posted publicly on Facebook and wrote: “I am in touch with Julian Assange and ready to do what is necessary.” Yes, that was really vague, and he didn’t offer additional details. Wikipedia’s page on Johnson says: “Johnson is frequently described as an internet troll. He periodically makes false and unsubstantiated claims.” One of those incidents happened after the Charlottesville attack, when GotNews named the wrong suspect first, according to Wikipedia.
However, news media have reported in recent months about Johnson having contact with Assange. In August, Orange County GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with Assange, a meeting that Johnson said he helped arrange (and attended) with Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson, according to the LA Times.
Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter with The Gateway Pundit, also tweeted after Johnson’s message that she talked to Johnson personally and he said Assange was safe. She later clarified that she couldn’t verify that what he told her was true, but she had no reason to assume he was lying.
So while Assange’s account was down, only one person was claiming to have talked with Assange, but the claim had not been verified. Assange’s account did return, later, without much fanfare.
Many People Created Fake Assange Accounts to Try to Gain Followers
While people were seeking to figure out what happened, they had to stay wary of accounts claiming to belong to Assange. Many people created fake alt accounts on Twitter just to try to gain followers. But there were never any official replacement accounts. Remember, @WikiLeaks or @EmbassyCat could easily confirm an alt account if one is created. It’s unclear why neither of these accounts tweeted anything about Assange’s account disappearing. Some of the fake accounts that have been noted so far include: @AltAssange and @TheRealJulian.
Thanks to these fake accounts, a lot of rumors began circulating about why Assange’s account was gone. A big rumor when his account first went down was that his account was deleted because he had tweeted something about Hillary Clinton having dementia. This is not true. As you can see from the cache link earlier in this story, nothing of the sort was caught on a cache. And the Twitter account in question that people keep pointing to, claiming his account is now back, does not belong to Assange. But Clinton isn’t the only rumor that was circulating. Another account, the @AltAssange account, was very active, claiming they are the new account and they were deleted because they were about to reveal secrets from the Deep State. Remember, unless @WikiLeaks or @EmbassyCat confirm a new Assange account, don’t believe it. This is a good rule of thumb any time.
Three Masked Men Broke Into WikiLeak’s Attorney’s Office a Few Days Ago
Earlier this week, WikiLeaks tweeted that three masked men broke into the office of their legal counsel, Baltasar Garzón. They “blinded cameras” but did not appear to have taken anything. Some have suggested that Assange briefly took down his Twitter account in case it was somehow compromised during that incident. However, at this time there is no way to verify if that’s the case. In fact, El Diario and RT reported that the men attempted to copy information stored on the servers but they weren’t successful, and all they took was a Christmas ham.
The biggest thing the WikiLeaks Twitter account has done in the days immediately before Assange’s account went down was to release Cryptokitties that you can purchase to support WikiLeaks.
Assange’s other account, @EmbassyCat, hasn’t tweeted since October.
The U.S. Navy Tweeted About Assange on Christmas
Another interesting development happened later on Christmas, when the U.S. Navy tweeted Julian Assange’s name and nothing else. They later said this was an inadvertent key stroke
As of around 1 p.m. Eastern on Christmas, Assange had not explained what happened to his Twitter account. It’s not known if he took the account down or if Twitter did. This wouldn’t be the first time Assange’s safety has been of concern. The last time, he wasn’t quick to verify that he was OK, but this time he’s tweeted a little since he returned. (Of course, there will be some people doubting it’s him until they get “proof of life,” like last time. Read more about the last time Assange was at the center of rumors about his safety in the Heavy story below.)
This is a developing story. We will update this as more information is available.