Before today, most people only identified the term ‘Wiki’ with Wikipedia. However, more recently Wikileaks has gained tremendous popularity howbeit in controversial circumstances after it released over 90,000 secret records pertaining to incidents and intelligent reports associated with the United States military concerning the war in Afghanistan. So then, what is or who are Wikileaks? Wikileaks is a ‘whistle-blowing’ Web site that publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive documents.
The site is based in Sweden and operated by the Sunshine Press, an organisation that claims to be “funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”. It hosts over one million documents to date and strives to protect the anonymity of its sources. This means that anyone is allowed to submit documents to the Web site anonymously although what is published is determined by a group of reviewers who are made of volunteers from the mainstream press, journalists and members of the Wikileaks advisory board. Furthermore, Wikileaks uses advanced cryptographic techniques and legal expertise to protect its sources whenever it accepts “classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance” (the organisation will not accept anything otherwise).
Other notable high-profile ‘leaks’ published on the Web site include: a video showing an American Apache helicopter killing at least 12 people in Baghdad 2007, screen shots of the email inbox, address book and photos of the 2008 American election vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin and a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta relating to Guantanamo Bay prisoners. It is therefore not surprising that the Wikileaks has been through various legal challenges to take it offline. The site claims to have fought off more than “100 legal attacks” to date and have been accused of several offences in the past including malicious forgery. However, being hosted primarily by Swedish ISP PeRIQuito (PRQ), which became famous for hosting file-sharing Website The Pirate Bay, makes it difficult to take the Wikileaks offline as PRQ maintains its servers at undisclosed locations.
As the site continues to grow in popularity and stature, it hopes to set up a number of “independent chapters around the World” as well as act as a kind of middle-man between its sources and newspapers. Perhaps, an example of this new initiative is seen in the release of these latest high-profile documents which was done in partnership with the New York Times, the Guardian (UK) and the German news magazine Der Spiegel.
Due to its controversial nature, Wikileaks has always split opinions on investigative journalism on the Internet. Do you think that a line should be drawn between freedom of speech on the Internet and issues of National security?