WikiLeaks is a website that publishes secret documents revealing the misconduct of governments and corporations. In its first year, WikiLeaks published more than 1.2 million secret documents. These documents revealed classified information about countries and corporations around the globe, spilling sensitive secrets about major conflicts and human rights abuses.
“If you engage in immoral, unjust behaviour, it will be found out,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the documentary WikiRebels. “It will be revealed and you will suffer the consequences.”
It’s easy to forget that technology – including state-of-the-art encryption, peer-to-peer file sharing, restricted mailing lists, memory sticks, VPN tunnels and the internet itself – is what makes it possible for WikiLeaks to release millions of secret documents at once.
Although governments and multinational corporations have attempted to blockade the website, Wikileaks has published many of these classified documents as torrents for distribution on peer-to-peer networks. These documents are located on the computers of journalists and hackers across the world, making it impossible for governments to remove them completely.
Like Wikipedia, Assange initially thought that ordinary people would collaborate to analyse the leaked material. Working with traditional media organisations, however, turned out to be more effective. WikiLeaks worked with traditional print publications, including The Guardian and The New York Times, to coordinate the release of secret documents about the war in Afghanistan.
According to the site’s cofounder Daniel Domscheit-Berg, WikiLeaks has “published more scoops than the Washington Post in the last thirty years.”
“It’s a worry isn’t it that the rest of the world’s media is doing such a bad job that a little group of activists is able to release more of that type of information than the rest of the world has combined,” Julian Assange said in an interview with TED’s Chris Anderson.
Watch the documentary WikiRebels and answer the following questions.
1. Describe what WikiLeaks does.
2. What technology makes WikiLeaks possible?
3. What social and political effect do you think Wikileaks has had?
4. Although WikiLeaks releases information, how do they work in conjunction with traditional media organisations?