London: An online digital art auction to raise money for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal defense saw bids rise to more than $50 million on Wednesday.
Assange is fighting Britain’s extradition to the United States, where authorities want him to face 18 criminal charges, including violating an espionage law, after WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of classified secret files and diplomatic telegrams in 2010.
Last month, Assange, who is still in a London prison, was given the chance to challenge the approval of his extradition in Britain’s highest court. The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear his case.
From February 7-9, Assange teamed up with a crypto artist known as Pak to sell a collection of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) called Censored in an online auction to raise money to support his cause.
NFTs are a type of crypto asset that uses blockchain to record ownership status of digital files such as images, videos and even items in online games.
The centerpiece of the auction is an NFT artwork, Clock, which displays the number of days Assange was imprisoned in white text on a black background. It is updated every day.
Bids on the Clock NFT were as of 1115 GMT on Wednesday at 16,593 ether, worth just under $52 million.
The bid was made by Assange supporters who formed a group called AssangeDAO to jointly bid on the NFT.
A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) is a type of online community that allows members to pool their funds and use blockchain-based tokens to vote on decisions about how it is managed.
The AssangeDAO has raised 17,422 of the cryptocurrency ether since Feb. 2 — roughly $54.6 million, according to crowdfunding website Juicebox. More than 10,000 people have contributed to the fundraiser.
“These are tens of thousands of people coming together to show real strength – the strength of the people,” AssangeDAO community leader Joshua Bate said in a Discord post announcing the bid. “In less than a week, we demonstrated that decentralized and dispersed peoples can unite to fight injustice.”
Proceeds from the sale of Clock will go to Assange’s legal defense, the group said.
The auction closes at 1400 GMT. If the AssangeDAO loses the auction, people who have paid to the DAO will have the option to withdraw their money, according to the AssangeDAO website.
The censored auction also allows supporters to create their own NFTs, choose an amount to pay, and type in a short message that converts into an image with the words crossed out, as if they were censored.
Supporters raised more than 587 ether ($1.8 million) this way and created 27,875 “censored” posts, the proceeds of which went to pro-freedom organizations chosen by Assange and Pak.
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