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Today In Nerd Fights: WikiLeaks Vs. The Former US Ambassador To Russia

WikiLeaks may think it will win thanks to its higher follower count, but as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they McFaul.

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Updated on

In the left — er, right? – corner, the scrappy underdogs who made good turned possible peddlers of information stolen by Russian hackers: WikiLeaks!

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Annnnnnnnd in this corner, standing a reasonably tall height, the former US ambassador to Russia and current professor at Stanford University: Michael McFaul!

As the pugilists prepare, a recap for everyone just tuning in:

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WikiLeaks is at the center of the US presidential election, steadily releasing scores of emails from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign. The organization refuses to reveal its source for the emails it obtained from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, despite evidence that a Russian hacking group was the culprit. WikiLeaks, and its founder, Julian Assange, has also maintained that it is continuing the work it did when it published the NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden.

McFaul, on the other hand, has become one of the most vocal critics of the Russian government since leaving his ambassadorship back in 2014.

And here's McFaul with the opening salvo, a scorcher of a hit given the US's recent accusation that Russian hackers have been trying to influence the presidential race!

Can people STOP referring to Wikileaks as a news organization. They are a foreign agent, supported by Russia, publishing stolen data.

Ooooh, and a fierce counter-blow from WikiLeaks, raising the awards that reporters won writing about the documents it put into the public eye!

@McFaul WikiLeaks is an award winning independent media organization, funded entirely by its readers, book and film sales.

How will the Stanford Stunner respond?!

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And it's a killer combo from McFaul, one-two-three!

We disagree. You publish stolen data & in American election, have made it clear that you are overtly partisan. https://t.co/NfzHHELjDK

You have become famous & therefore generate these $s by publishing stolen property. How is that any different from… https://t.co/bjUGz56Wmp

You work is also underwritten by Russian intelligence services. That makes your claim to being "independent" suspe… https://t.co/MIKoe8UAWl

Your claim to being independent would be more credible if you published stolen data about Putin & Trump. You have n… https://t.co/ioKD83sQK9

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But wait! This one-on-one duel is turning into a battle royale, as WikiLeaks followers climb on board, leaving McFaul fending off challengers left and right.

Russian intelligence recorded & published a private conversation I had in a Marriot hotel in Moscow. Trump is talki… https://t.co/9tSA6kLzy2

In the middle of the scrum, back in leaps WikiLeaks with a jab at McFaul's knowledge of the law.

@McFaul Copied. Not stolen. The holder retains full use. Law 101.

And the low blow: WikiLeaks denying to McFaul's digital face that he was a friend to murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemstov.

@McFaul You were, and continue to be, no friend of Nemstov, who was open about his beliefs and who died years after our publications.

With that, both fighters retreated to their respective corner. McFaul, in an email interview with BuzzFeed News, said that he was concerned about retaliation from Wikileaks' followers.

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"I am always worried about the Russians attempting to obtain information from me, but worry with engaging in conversation with Wikileaks that their ardent followers all over the world will come after me as well," McFaul wrote. "And that is a paradox that I think gets left out of these discussions. The threat of being hacked shuts down free and private speech. It also has a chilling effect on contacts for diplomats. When I was ambassador, many people with whom I met insisted that I not bring a notetaker and not write a cable for fear of being exposed by Wikileaks."

Wikileaks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the battle.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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