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Wikileaks founder and one of the most divisive people in tech, Julian Assange, is set to headline Net Prophet, the annual technology and trends conference taking place in Cape Town on 21 May.
The Australian-born Assange has been under investigation in the US since 2010, thanks largely to the decision to publish US military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. He was forced into seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 after the UK Supreme Court refused to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex charges.
The controversial online activist’s appearance at the conference will therefore be conducted via WeChat video conference.
“In my role as WikiLeaks editor, I’ve been involved in fighting off many legal attacks,” says Assange, “To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions.”
The decision to accept a video chat via WeChat is an interesting one, given that its parent company Tencent is based in China, a country hardly renowned for its tolerance of internet freedom.
Assange denies any guilt in relation to the sex charges, but is afraid that Swedish authorities will hand him over to the US, where he will be treated unfairly.