Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder described the internet as the “greatest spying machine the world has ever seen”.

Assange told students at Cambridge University that the web was not a technology that necessarily favours the freedom of speech, but it could allow greater government transparency and better co-operation between activists.

“While the Internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen,” he said.

“It [the web] is not a technology that favours freedom of speech. It is not a technology that favours human rights. It is not a technology that favours civil life. Rather it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen.”

“Or, on the other hand, taken by us, taken by activists, and taken by all those who want a different trajectory for the technological world, it can be something we all hope for,” Assange added.

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In April 2010, WikiLeaks published the ‘the Collateral Murder’ video, which was gunsight footage from a Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi civilians and journalists were killed by an Apache helicopter.

In July, it released to the public for the first time, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the war in Afghanistan, called ‘Afghan War Diary’.

Then, WikiLeaks released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the ‘Iraq War Logs’. Released in October, this allowed every death in Iraq, and across the border in Iran, to be mapped.

The site then caused political outrage in November 2010, when it began releasing US State department diplomatic cables.