Can Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Influence Foreign Elections Now That Ecuador Cut Off His Internet Access?

Ecuador’s embassy in London has cut off all internet access for its whistleblower-in-residence, Julian Assange, claiming that the WikiLeaks founder broke an agreement not to spread messages that could damage Ecuador’s relationship with other countries.

“The behavior of Assange, with his messages on social media, puts at risk the good relationship the country maintains with Great Britain, with the other members of the European Union, and with other countries,” the Ecuadorian Embassy announced in a statement Wednesday. The agreement to not send messages that would damage Ecuador’s foreign policy was allegedly signed by Assange last year.

The decision was made after Assange and his organization WikiLeaks were accused of attempting to influence foreign elections.

Ecuador cut Assange’s internet access once in 2016 over concerns that he may try to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S. During that year, WikiLeaks published a collection of emails stolen by hackers from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. A recent statement from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Tuesday claimed that the hacker who gave the stolen emails to Wikileaks was likely a Russian military intelligence agent. Many analysts suspect that Assange and WikiLeaks are both aligned with the Russian government.

President Donald Trump has argued that WikiLeaks had no impact on the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections. But the president lauded the organization on numerous occasions during his campaign for office. The organization also shared direct messages with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and with Trump surrogate Roger Stone.

Cutting Assange off from the internet will ensure that the WikiLeaks founder cannot engage in these types of endeavors directly. Nevertheless, WikiLeaks has staff members and editors in other countries, and the radical transparency organization can continue to leak classified information with Assange.

Assange originally took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced charges of sexual assault. Sweden eventually dropped the charges against him, but if he leaves the embassy he could be arrested by British authorities for jumping bail. The WikiLeaks founder says he is afraid to leave the embassy because Britain may comply with demands that he be extradited to the United States to face trial for his involvement in the leaking of classified government information through his organization.

But during his stay at the embassy, Assange has clashed with embassy staff on numerous occasions. The embassy employees have complained that he fails to care for his own personal hygiene and regularly wipes his fingers on his pants after he eats.

Ecuador’s embassy released the statement Wednesday confirming that Assange would be cut off from communicating with the outside world shortly after he tweeted an antagonistic message at a British minister implying that the British politician was a snake.  

Assange was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, and he obtained Ecuadorian citizenship earlier this year. He is also an Australian national.