Fact Check

San Francisco Tech Company CEO Framed Julian Assange?

A software start-up has been accused of framing the WikiLeaks founder, but the CEO says confusion stemmed from an address mix-up.

Published Oct 19, 2016

A San Francisco tech company is a front for the web site that accused Julian Assange of pedophilia.

On 19 October 2016, amateur Internet sleuths on the messaging board Reddit compiled a series of happenstance facts that they believed identified a hitherto anonymous software company as a front operation for the dating web site they believe framed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with pedophilia.

The Reddit users launched into action over unsupported claims by a dating web site, Todd & Clare, which also goes by T&C Network Solutions, that Assange used their platform to send pornographic material to a child. Their findings were tweeted by WikiLeak's official Twitter account, and various dubious web sites posted stories claiming that the tech company, Premise, has the same address as Todd & Clare, and thus the two are one and the same. But Premise does not, in fact, share an address with the dating site.

Premise CEO David Soloff told us his company was dragged into the bizarre dispute between Assange and Todd & Clare because of confusion created by a street address the company used to have:

Premise is also not associated with, has never had dealings with, and has no knowledge of T&C Network Solutions. This all appears to tie back to mistaken internet information about a previous office address (645 7th St.) Premise occupied through August 2015 before we outgrew the space and moved to our current offices. We have no professional or donor affiliation with any political candidate.

document provided by WikiLeaks on their own investigation of the dating site actually supports Soloff's statement. WikiLeaks, using the Intenet archiving tool WayBack, notes Todd & Clare were first recorded at 645 7th Street in October of 2015. It's also the first time the web site was recorded existing at its current domain, toddandclare.com.

Premise moved out of that building in August of 2015, according to Soloff. Their office is now located on Berry Street — still in San Francisco, but in a different zip code. The WayBack tool, which WikiLeaks used, shows Premise changing their address information to the location on Berry Street as of 15 July 2015, well before Todd & Clare was recorded at the 7th Street address.

Redditors found pictures Soloff posted to Twitter of himself posing with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and claimed those were proof of "ties" between Soloff, Clinton, and Todd & Clare. Soloff's having his picture taken with Clinton is not any more proof of any substantive "ties" to her than any of the other thousands of pictures of people who posed for a quick photo op with the politician.

Larry Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, is on Premise's board of directors — something taken as another piece of "evidence" that Premise is linked to the Clintons. But there's no proof that this is any more than an unsurprising coincidence, and it doesn't document any ties between the tech company and Todd & Clare. In fact, no proof has yet been offered that the dating service which thrust itself into international news has ties to any politician.

The conspiracy arguments then got even more ridiculous:

Another Redditor suggested that as the website was fake, they creators probably just chose a fake address — and as such the real occupants of the address, Premise Data, may have nothing to do with whole episode. But what are the chances of a fake street address chosen by a fake company accidentally landing on an office with staff like those employed by Premise Data?

The whole case is reminiscent of the South Park episode when the kids outsmart the FBI just by using social media. Is this the Reddit thread that uncovered a giant conspiracy to smear Assange in one of the worst possible ways?

As Premise no longer uses the address Reddit sleuths are associating with Todd & Clare, there is hardly any "smoking gun" to be found. Premise moved out of the location before Todd & Clare moved in (or started using it, even if they weren't physically there). However, the company seems to have been drawn into the strange Assange saga by the mere coincidence they were previous tenants at the address.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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