WikiLeaks announced on Twitter early Monday that the internet service used by Julian Assange has been cut by a “state party,” leaving the site’s founder temporarily unable to post anything online.
The site, which has in recent weeks released a torrent of emails it claims were hacked from Democratic National Committee sources and sources within Hillary Clinton’s campaign, sought to reassure followers by tweeting that “ appropriate contingency plans” had been activated.
Julian Assange's internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We have activated the appropriate contingency plans.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 17, 2016
The news came after rumors flew overnight Sunday that Assange could be dead following a series of odd tweets some claimed were a “dead man’s switch” that would be activated should anything happen to Assange. A "dead man's switch" refers to a switch that is automatically triggered if a person working it should become incapacitated in some way.
The three cryptic tweets released Sunday referenced Ecuador, Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office. The tweets included a string of numbers and letters.
Gizmodo reported early Monday the tweets had led to speculation that Assange had died or was killed.
Rumors on Reddit repeated that the numbers triggered the “dead man’s switch” which would trigger the release of the most sensitive of information in the event that Assange did die. Gizmodo reported that such a switch does exist for WikiLeaks.
A Reddit user explained that the tweets are “hashes” that would be used to ensure that information WikiLeaks releases in the future is authentic.
“WikiLeaks is tweeting out hashes. They're not passwords to unlock a file, but a digital fingerprint to prove its authenticity.”
The tweets released looked like this:
pre-commitment 1: John Kerry 4bb96075acadc3d80b5ac872874c3037a386f4f595fe99e687439aabd0219809— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 16, 2016
pre-commitment 2: Ecuador— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 16, 2016
pre-commitment 3: UK FCO f33a6de5c627e3270ed3e02f62cd0c857467a780cf6123d2172d80d02a072f74— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 16, 2016
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in West London since 2012, facing extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. Assange denies the charges.