Last week, a group supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange created the AssangeDAO, which focuses on raising funds for his upcoming battle to avoid extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. on espionage charges.
The collective, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)—or people pursuing a common interest without any central authority—began mobilizing on Dec. 10, the day that the U.S. government won its appeal over a “British court ruling that barred Assange’s extradition to the U.S.,” AssangeDAO wrote on its website. Since April of 2019, Assange has been locked up at the Belmarsh maximum security prison in the UK pending his U.S. extradition hearings over espionage and computer hacking charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 175 years.
Assange supporters argue that the Australian national isn’t a criminal, but a journalist and defender of free speech. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, previously said that it set a “dangerous precedent” if journalists face charges from U.S. authorities for publishing “truthful information” about the U.S.
Soon after AssangeDAO’s launch, the group teamed with Gabriel Shipton, Assange’s brother and a core contributor of AssangeDAO, to collect funds for the sole purpose of bidding on a non-fungible token (NFT) created by Assange and digital artist Pak.
Now, in just one week, AssangeDAO has raised $53 million, or 17,422 of the cryptocurrency Ether, from over 10,000 contributors through fundraising platform Juicebox. Notable contributors include Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who donated 10 Ether, or approximately $32,000.
As of Wednesday morning, AssangeDAO used the $53 million it collected to bid on—and win—the Clock NFT—a digital clock tracking the number of days Assange has spent locked up—by Assange and Pak. The NFT sale proceeds will go to the whistleblower’s legal defense fund and awareness campaign about the “free speech implications of his case,” says the group’s mission statement.
“This is an important moment in DAO history,” Rachel Rose O’Leary, a core contributor of AssangeDAO — who is also co-founder and developer of DarkFi and a former CoinDesk journalist — told The Block. “AssangeDAO has executed its final bid: a max bid of its entire treasury on the Clock NFT.”
On Tuesday, Shipton submitted a proposal on the DAO’s governance forum that AssangeDAO must put its max bid on the Clock NFT. “We believe that this is the best outcome for AssangeDAO to assist Julian Assange’s liberation,” he wrote in the proposal at the time.
While many within the AssangeDAO community were against the max bid, Assange’s family expressed their support, and the key players signed off on the transaction, said O’Leary, who has partial control over the funds held by AssangeDAO.
AssangeDAO’s crypto-fundraise smashes Juicebox’s previous fundraising record from ConstitutionDAO, the group which late last year raised money to try to buy an original copy of the 243-year-old U.S. Constitution. The DAO’s campaign had raised 11,613 Ether, equivalent to around $49 million at the time.
There were over 10,000 contributors, including Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who donated 10 ether, or approximately $32,000.
“This is tens of thousands of people coming together to show real strength – the Power of the People,” JB87 said in the AssangeDAO Discord. “In less than one week, we have shown that decentralised and distributed peoples can band together to fight injustice.”
The centerpiece of the auction was an NFT artwork called Clock, which displays the number of days Assange has been imprisoned in white text on a black background.
The final bid last Wednesday saw AssangeDAO use 16,593 ether, about $53 million, it collected to bid on – and win – the Clock NFT.
The Clock NFT won by AssangeDAO is part of a larger NFT collection by Assange and Pak called Censored. The other part of the Censored collection will feature censored messages from NFT buyers. That collection has so far raised 670 Ether, around $2.1 million, with 100% of the proceeds donated toward “human rights, freedom of information, digital privacy, child education, and health organizations,” wrote artist Pak on Twitter.
Winning the Clock NFT
The Clock NFT won by AssangeDAO is part of Pak x Julian Assange’s NFT collection called Censored.
The Clock is a single NFT. It is a muted timer counting the number of days Assange has spent in prison. Assange was arrested in 2019 in London and faces potential extradition to the US. Proceeds raised from the NFT sale will go toward Assange’s legal fees.
The second part of the Censored NFT collection was an open edition, exhibiting buyers’ tokenized messages. Anyone could choose to pay whatever they want for a tokenized message. Over 29,000 tokenized messages were created by buyers or “vanguards” in the edition. They can be viewed on OpenSea here.
AssangeDAO’s governance token Justice is also liquid now, meaning contributors can claim it and trade it on decentralized exchanges such as Uniswap and SushiSwap.
One Justice token is currently trading at around $0.0038 on Uniswap, up 20% from the initial price during the fundraising period.