Assange: the internet is "the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen"

The statement from the Wikileaks Chief came during a speech at the Cambridge Union.

In a speech at Cambridge University, Julian Assange explained to students that though the West lauds the internet, the reality is that it is a double edged sword, and is the "greatest spying machine the world has ever seen."

He stated that on the one hand the internet can be used as a platform for civil society to demand greater governmental and corporate transparency, as shown with Wikileaks. But on the other, he warned that it can also easily be used by governments to monitor and track down dissidents, as happened in Egypt a few years ago. He made it clear that the internet is not inherently pro freedom of speech, or pro human rights, and that this depends on how it is used.

Furthermore, rather than arguing that Twitter and Facebook played the main role in the Middle Eastern uprisings, he stated that Al-Jazeera and leaked Tunisian cables were more important to galvanising revolutionary sentiment:

"The Tunisian cables showed clearly that if it came down to it, the US, if it came down to a fight between the military on the one hand, and Ben Ali's political regime on the other, the US would probably support the military. That is something that must have also caused neighbouring countries to Tunisia some thought: that is that if they militarily intervened, they may not be on the same side as the United States."

Assange is still fighting his extradition to Sweden over accusations of rape.

Liam McLaughlin is a freelance journalist who has also written for Prospect and the Huffington Post. He tweets irregularly @LiamMc108.