Assange: The US government is pursuing five different types of charges against me. I don’t know how many charges altogether, but five types of charges: espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, computer fraud and abuse, theft of secrets and general conspiracy. Even if there were only one charge of each type, which there wouldn’t be, that would be 45 years, and the Espionage Act has life imprisonment and death penalty provisions as well. So it would be absurd for me to worry about the consequences of our next publication. Saudi officials came out after we started publishing the Saudi cables and said that spreading and publishing government information carries a penalty of 20 years in prison. Only 20 years! So if it’s a choice between being extradited to Saudi Arabia or the US, then I should go to Saudi Arabia, a land famous for its judicial moderation.
Assange: Until the 1980s, computers were big machines designed for the military or scientists, but then the personal computers were developed and companies had to start rebranding them as machines that were helpful for individual human beings. Organizations like Google, whose business model is « voluntary » mass surveillance, appear to be giving it away for free. Free e-mail, free search, etc. Therefore it seems that they’re not a corporation, because corporations don’t do things for free. It falsely seems like they are part of civil society.
SPIEGEL : And they shape the thinking of billions of users?
Assange: They are also exporting a specific mindset of culture. You can use the old term of « cultural imperialism » or call it the « Disneylandization » of the Internet. Maybe « digital colonization » is the best terminology.
SPIEGEL: What does this « colonization » look like?
Assange: These corporations establish new societal rules about what activities are permitted and what information can be transmitted. Right down to how much nipple you can show. Down to really basic matters, which are normally a function of public debate and parliaments making laws. Once something becomes sufficiently controversial, it’s banned by these organizations. Or, even if it is not so controversial, but it affects the interests that they’re close to, then it’s banned or partially banned or just not promoted.
SPIEGEL: So in the long run, cultural diversity is endangered?
Assange: The long-term effect is a tendency towards conformity, because controversy is eliminated. An American mindset is being fostered and spread to the rest of the world because they find this mindset to be uncontroversial among themselves. That is literally a type of digital colonialism; non-US cultures are being colonized by a mindset of what is tolerable to the staff and investors of a few Silicon Valley companies. The cultural standard of what is a taboo and what is not becomes a US standard, where US exceptionalism is uncontroversial.