A series of three tweets from WikiLeaks early on Monday set off speculation that Julian Assange, the founder of the online depository for leaked documents, was dead. Not true.
The tweets, which included a 64-character code without any other context, drew a wave of conspiracy speculators who responded with conjecture the cryptic messages were the result of a “dead man's switch,” a fail-safe strategy meant to be set off should Assange die, according to Gizmodo.
The term originated to define a machine switch that could be kicked into gear should an operator become incapacitated. The speculation here was that the confusing messages were proof that Assange had expired.
However, Gizmodo explained that the term “pre-commitment” used in the three tweets refers to a cryptographic scheme that prevents potential intruders from altering undisclosed information. "Essentially those unique codes are proof to anyone reading the documents in the future that their contents remain unchanged: alteration to the leaks will likewise alter those 64-character codes," the site stated. If Assange were incapacitated, there would be more than three tweets revealing the trove of data in the possession of WikiLeaks.
Assange himself refuted the speculation posting a photo.
However, complicating this development, WikiLeaks subsequently tweeted that Assange's internet connection had been severed by an unidentified "state party."
The site wrote it had "activated appropriate contingency plans," but no further details were presented. At 1 p.m. EST, the WikiLeaks site is operational, although it is unclear whether Assange's own internet connection is still down at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up since 2012.
WikiLeaks has been publishing materials it obtained from unknown sources revealing inner workings of the Democratic National Committee and confidential campaign communications of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, as well as her FBI file and transcripts of speeches she gave to global financial firm Goldman Sachs, setting off another round of speculation over who is behind the shuttering of his access.