WIKILEAKS DEVELOPS NEW BUSINESS MODEL
“Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.”
WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website that allows people to publish uncensored information anonymously, has suspended operations owing to financial problems. Its running costs including staff payments are $600,000 (£377,000), but so far this year it has raised just $130,000 (£81,000). WikiLeaks has established a reputation for publishing information that traditional media cannot. The website claims to be non-profit and relies on donations. A statement on its front page says it is funded by “human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”.
WikiLeaks does not accept money from governments or corporations. A list of names and addresses of people said to belong to the British National Party (BNP) was posted on the site in October 2009. WikiLeaks also published e-mail exchanges involving US politician Sarah Palin after her account was hacked. The site claims to have information about corrupt banks, the UN and the Iraq war that it is unable to publish while funds remain low.
While it has won awards for its work from the Economist and Amnesty International, WikiLeaks has also fought more than 100 legal challenges. “WikiLeaks has established a good name for itself and broken some good stories,” Julian Petley, chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, told BBC News. “One of the reasons why WikiLeaks is so useful is that it’s able to put original documents up – unfiltered by comment and editorial.” Investigative journalist Paul Lashmar said he had been “startled” by the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in publishing suppressed information.
However he thought that the funding issue would not be easily resolved. “(Web) users aren’t interested in how the people behind sites make their money,” he said. “The problem for the self-funding model is that sites like WikiLeaks will not find it easy to attract funding through advertising. “At some point people who care about free speech will realise that free speech has to be funded, otherwise it’s not free.”
Dig deep for Wikileaks
BY Emily Butselaar / 29 January 2010
Wikileaks, the whistleblowers’ home, has been temporarily shut down while its management tries to raise funds. Its tremendous success has meant the site has often struggled under the volume of users. It has faced down governments, investment banks and the famously litigious Church of Scientology but paying its operating costs (circa $600,000) has proved its undoing. As of today instead of reading government secrets and details of corporate malfeasance all visitors to the site will see is an appeal for cash. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression should dig deep.
Wikileaks, with its simple “keep the bastards honest” ethos, aims to discourage unethical behaviour by airing governments’ and corporations’ dirty laundry in public, putting their secrets out there in the public realm. The site won Index on Censorship’s 2008 freedom of expression award because it’s an invaluable resource for anonymous whistleblowers and investigative journalists.
Among Wikileaks’ recent triumphs are its publication of top-secret internet censorship lists. The blacklists from Australia, Thailand, Denmark and Norway demonstrate exactly how censorship systems are abused to suppress free expression. The Thai list featured sites criticising the country’s royal family and the Australian blacklist turned out to include a school canteen consultancy. Despite its child porn mandate, less than half of the Australian blacklist were linked to paedophilia. Also on the list were satanic and fetish sites, anti-abortion websites, and sites belonging to a kennel operator and a dentist. Publication highlighted the lack of transparency in the process and gave impetus to the “No Clean Feed” campaign which opposes the Australian government’s internet filter proposals.
But Wikileaks is not just a tool for journalists, it allows ordinary Kenyans to read a confidential report detailing the billions their former president allegedly siphoned from the country’s coffers. Its repository includes controversial military documents including the US rules of engagement in Iraq and an operating manual issued to army officers in Guantánamo Bay. It has put corporations on notice that the costs of unethical behaviour are immeasurable in PR terms because it amplifies the Streisand effect, the social media phenomenon that punishes those who use the courts to suppress or censor information, by ensuring it has a much wider reach.
Some have dismissed the site as a snooper’s charter. Many were outraged by its publication of Sarah Palin’s hacked emails which included private email addresses and Palin’s family photographs. These critics tended to overlook that the emails also provided clear evidence that Palin was using private email accounts for state business.
Wikipedia democratises news and information, allowing the public to access secret information that once would have been limited to the chateratti. Had the Trafigura case occurred five years earlier, most journalists would have been able to access the secret report at the heart of the case, but Wikileaks enables everyone to read it. The superinjunction taken out by Trafigura was so comprehensive that of 293 articles about the suppressed report, only 11 dared to link to it or told the public where they could access it. If Wikileaks didn’t exist, it is possible that Trafigura’s management may have clung to their injunction.
For fear of compromising its integrity Wikileaks doesn’t accept funding from corporations or governments. Instead, it relies on the public. If you want to read the exposés of the future, it’s time to chip in.
“ Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ” — The National, November 19. 2009
“To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, but will be back soon. We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the US detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release. You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another ten thousand hands and $1000, a million. We have raised just over $130,000 for this year but can not meaningfully continue operations until costs are covered. These amount to just under $200,000 PA. If staff are paid, our yearly budget is $600,000.
The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.
If you are interested in contributing to our mission using another payment method or with a shares, property, bonds, a grant, matched contribution, bequest, interest free loan, or have any other questions, please write to email@example.com
Wikileaks is currently overloaded by readers. This is a regular difficulty that can only be resolved by deploying additional resources. If you support our mission, you can help us by integrating new hardware into our project infrastructure or developing software for the project. Become patron of a WikiLeaks server or other parts of our technology, adding more pillars to the stability and balance of the WikiLeaks platform. Servers come trouble-free and legally fortified, software is uniquely challenging. If you can provide rackspace, power and an uplink, or a dedicated server or storage space, for at least 12 months, or software development work for WikiLeaks, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Individuals or organizations wishing to donate lawyer time write to email@example.com. We provide unique legal challenges in an ongoing fight for global justice and freedom of speech. If you support our mission, join our legal team to help defend those values.
WikiLeaks would like to thank the following 18 steadfast supporters (unordered):
Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
Gannett Co. Inc – largest publisher of newspapers in US, including USA Today
The Hearst Corporation – conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
The Los Angeles Times
National Newspaper Association (NNA)
Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas
“ … serves as an uncensorable and untraceable depository for the truth, able to publish documents that the courts may prevent newspapers and broadcasters from being able to touch. ” — In praise of… Wikileaks – The Guardian, October 20, 2009
The Economy of Wikileaks / January 4, 2010
Wikileaks is a global platform for Whistleblowers, in which internal documents can be published. The idea is that arcane knowledge becomes common knowledge and the world a better place. The project could play in the same league as success stories like Wikipedia or Indymedia. After a highly acclaimed lecture at the 26th Congress of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin, I had the opportunity to interview Julian Assange, the most prominent Wikileaks-character on how to finance such a website. The question seems to be pressing.
Q. At the moment [update Jan 21: and still today] Wikileaks.org has an unusual appearance. The website is locked down in order to generate money. How did you decide in favor of this tough step?
A. In part, this is a desire for us to to enforce self-discipline. It is for us a way to ensure that everyone who is involved stops normal work and actually spends time raising revenue. That’s hard for us, because we promise our sources that we will do something about their situation.
Q. So, you strike?
A. Yes, it’s similar to what unions do when they go on strike. They remind people that their labour has value by withdrawing supply entirely. We give free and important information to the world every day. But when the supply is infinite in the sense that everyone is able to download what we publish, the perceived value starts to reduce down to zero. So by withdrawing supply and making our supply to zero, people start to once again perceive the value of what we are doing.
Q. Do you urgently need money?
A. We have lots of very significant upcoming releases, significant in terms of bandwidth, but even more significant in terms of amount of labour they will require to process and in terms of legal attacks we will get. So we need to be in a stronger position before we can publish the material.
Q. In mainstream media as well as in non-commercial media there are two important questions. What does it cost? And how is it financed? Would you please first describe the cost side …
A. By far the biggest cost is people. That’s also a cost that scales with operations. The more material we go through, the more the management and labour costs are. People need to write summaries of the material and see whether it’s true or not. In the moment everyone is paying himself, but that can’t last forever.
Q. How big is the core team of WikiLeaks?
A. There are probably five people that do it 24 hours a day. And then there are 800 people who do it occasionally throughout the year. And in between there is a spectrum.
Q. How do you and the other four guys who work full time without salaries finance living costs?
A. I have made money in the Internet. So I have enough money to do that, but also not forever. And the other four guys, in the moment they are also able to self-finance.
Q. Was Wikileaks your idea as many assumed?
A. I don’t call myself a founder.
Q. Nobody really knows about the founders, says Wikipedia …
A. Yes. This is simply because some of the people in the initial founding group are refugees, refugees from China and other places. And they still have family back in their home countries.
Q. So at the moment the labour costs are still hypothetical, but the big costs that you really have to pay bills for are servers, office, etc.?
A. On the bandwidth side, the backing is costly as well when we get big spikes. Then there are registrations, bureaucracy, dealing with bank accounts and this sort of stuff. Because we are not in one location, it doesn’t make sense for us to have headquarters. People have their own offices across the world.
Q. What about cost for lawsuits?
A. We don’t have to pay for our lawyer’s time. Hundred of thousands or millions dollars’ worth of lawyer time are being donated. But we still have to pay things like photocopying and court filing. And so far we have never lost a case, there were no penalties or compensations to pay.
Q. So all in all, can you give figures about how much money Wikileaks needs in one year?
A. Propably 200 000, that’s with everyone paying themselves. But there are people who can’t afford to continue being involved fulltime unless they are paid. For that I would say maybe it’s 600 000 a year.
Q. Now let’s talk about revenues, your only visible revenue stream is donations …
A. Private donations. We refuse government and corporate donations. In the moment most of the money comes from the journalists, the lawyers or the technologists who are personally involved. Only about ten percent are from online donations. But that might increase.
Q. At the bottom of the site is a list of your “steadfast supporters”, media organisations and companies like AP, Los Angeles Times or The National Newspaper Association. What do they do for you?
A. They give their lawyers, not cash.
Q. Why do the they help you? Probably not out of selflessness.
A. Two things: They see us as an organisation that makes it easier for them to do what they do. But they also see us as the thin end of the wedge. We tackle the hardest publishing cases. And if we are defeated, maybe they will be next in line. In other words: If Wikileaks.org goes down as a result of a legal action, the same precedence can be used to take down nytimes.com the next day or the German Spiegelonline.
Q. My explanation was that maybe they do it because they know that what you do is actually their job, but they don’t have the money to do it.
A. Maybe. The cost per word in investigative journalism is high. We make it a little bit cheaper for them. If you can bring these costs per word down you can get more words of investigative journalism and publish even in a company that wants to maximize profit, because we do some of the expensive sourcing. And there is another really big cost, namely the threat of legal action. We take the most legally difficult part, which is not the story, but usually the backing documents. As a result there is less chance of legal action against the publisher. So we help them to bring their costs per word in investigative journalism down.
Q. You need to motivate two groups of people, in order to make the site run, the whistleblowers and the journalists. What are the motivations for whistleblowers?
A. Usually they are incenced morally by something. Very rarely actually they want revenge or just to embarrass some organisation. So that’s their incentive, to satisfy this feeling. Actually we would have no problem giving sources cash. We don’t do that, but for me there is no reason why only the lawyers and the journalists should be compensated for their effort. Somebody is taking the risk to do something and this will end up benefiting the public.
Q. But then the legal problem would become much bigger.
A. Yes, but we’re not concerned about that. We could do these transfer payments to a jurisdiction like Belgium which says, that the authorities are not to use any means to determine the connection between the journalist and their source. And this would include the banking system.
Q. On the other hand, you experiment with incentives for journalists. This sounds weird at first. Why do you have to give them additional incentives so they use material you offer them for free?
A. It’s not that easy. Information has value, generally in proportion to the supply of this information being restricted. Once everyone has the information, another copy of the information has no value.
Q. But nearly every journalist in the U.S. has daily access to the material of a news agency like AP.
A. The material of AP is ready to go straight into the newspaper. Our material requires additional investment. So when we release an important leak, it requires an important, intelligent journalist who is politically well connected. Those journalists have significant opportunity costs. Okay, they want to spend their time on 200 pages. In order for that to be profitable they need to make sure that they will come out with an exclusive at the end. But if it is perceived to be something of interest, it is probable that also other people will be working on it at that moment. And when they publish is unpredictable. That produces the counter-intuitive outcome that the more evidence there is of some scandal and the more important the scandal, the less likely it is that the press will write about it. If there is no exclusivity.
Q. In Germany you made an exclusivity deal with two media companies, with Stern and Heise. Are you satisfied with these kind of deals?
A. We have done this in other countries before. Generally we have been satisfied. The problem is that it takes too much time to manage. To make a contract, and to determine who should have the exclusivity. Someone can say, oh, we will do a good story. We are going to maximize the political impact. And then they won’t do it. How do we measure this?
Q. You want to make sure that if you give them the exclusivity that they really do what they promise to do …
A. Yes. One thing that can’t be faked is how much money they pay. If you have an auction and a media organisation pays the most, then they are predicting, that they will benefit the most from publishing the story. That is, they will have the maximum number of readers. So this is a very good way to measure who should have the exclusivity. We tried to do it as an experiment in Venezuela .
Q. Why Venezuela?
A. Because of the character of the document. We had 7 000 e-mails from Freddy Balzan, he was Hugo Chavez’s former speech writer and also the former ambassador to Argentinia. We knew that this document would have this problem, that it was big and political important, therefore probably no one would write anything about it for the reason I just said.
Q. What happened?
A. This auction proved to be a logistical nightmare. Media organisations wanted access to the material before they went to auction. Consequently we would get them to sign non-disclosure agreements, chop up the material and release just every second page or every second sentence.That proved to distracting to all the normal work we were doing, so that we said, forget it, we can’t do that. We just released the material as normal. And that’s precisely what happened: no one wrote anything at all about those 7 000 Emails. Even though 15 stories had appeared about the fact that we were holding the auction.
Q. The experiment failed.
A. The experiment didn’t fail; the experiment taught us about what the burdens were. We would actually need a team of five or six people whose job was just to arrange these auctions.
Q. You plan to continue the auction idea in the future …
A. We plan to continue it, but we know it will take more resources. But if we pursue that we will not do that for single documents. We will instead offer a subscription. This would be much simpler. We would only have the overhead of doing the auction stuff every three months or six months, and not for every document.
Q. So the exclusivity of the story will run out after three months?
A. No, there will be exclusivity in terms of different time windows in access to the material. As an example: there will be an auction for North America. And you will be ranked in the auction. The media organisation which bids most in the auction would get access to it first, the one who bids second will get access to it second and so on. Media organisations would have a subscription to Wikileaks.
Q. They would have timely privileged access to all Wikileaks documents that are relevant for North America …
A. Yes. Let’s imagine there are only two companies in the auction. And one pays double what the other one pays. And let’s say the source says they want the document to be published in one month’s time. So there is a one month window where the journalists have time to investigate and write about the material. The organisation that pays the most for it gets it immediately, so therefore they would be able to do a more comprehensive story. Then the organisation that pays half as much gets it half the time later, they get the documents two weeks later. And then after one month they both publish.
Q. That sounds promising. Wouldn’t then the financial problem be solved?
A. It depends on how many resources the auction itself takes. And media themselves don’t have so much money at all. But all in all I think we only would have to have a few bid cases per year, that would be enough to finance it.
SECURE UPLOAD [DISCLAIMER]
YOU Submit a document for us to publish and, inorder to maximize its impact, distribute amongst our network of investigative journalists, human rights workers, lawyers and other partners.
WE will publish and keep published the document you submitted, provided it meets the submission criteria. Your data is stored decentralized, encrypted and as a preserved historic record, accessible in full by the public. The information you submit will be cleaned by us to not be technically traceable to your PDF printing program, your word installation, scanner, printer. We also anonymize any information on you at a very early stage of the WikiLeaks network, and our services neither know who you are nor do they keep any information about your visit. We will never cooperate with anyone trying to identify you as our source. In fact we are legally bound not to do so, and any investigation into you as our source is a crime in various countries and will be prosecuted.
UPLOADING THE HISTORICAL RECORD
Wikileaks plans to make the Web a leakier place
BY Dan Nystedt / October 9, 2009
Wikileaks.org, the online clearinghouse for leaked documents, is working on a plan to make the Web leakier by enabling newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators and others to embed an “upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks” form onto their Web sites. The upload system will give potential whistleblowers around the world the ability to leak sensitive documents to an organization or journalist they trust over a secure connection, while giving the receiver legal protection they might not otherwise enjoy. “We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,” said Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks, in an interview at the Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Once Wikileaks confirms the uploaded material is real, it will be handed over to the Web site that encouraged the submission for a period of time. This embargo period gives the journalist or rights group time to write a news story or report based on the material.
The embargo period is a key part of the plan, Assange said. When Wikileaks releases material without writing its own story or finding people who will, it gains little attention. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said. “You’d think the bigger and more important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but that’s absolutely not true. It’s about supply and demand. Zero supply equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material, the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero.” The final act will be for Wikileaks to publish the material on its Web site after the story has been written and the embargo period lapsed. “We want to get as much substantive information as possible into the historical record, keep it accessible and provide incentives for people to turn it into something that will achieve political reform,” said Assange.
Wikileaks is also working on ways to make the material it receives easier to search through. The problem Wikileaks often runs into is how to present the material it’s been given and how to make it easier to sift through for vital information, said Assange. “At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives,” he said. “Now how do we present that? It’s a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it.” In three years on the Web, Wikileaks has published over 1.2 million sensitive documents.
GLASS HOUSE INTACT
The famous whistle-blower site just blew its own whistle, leaking the e-mail addresses of dozens of its financial supporters.
By Robert X. Cringely / February 23, 2009
Live by the leak, die by the leak. Apparently that’s the motto at Wikileaks.org, the whistle-blowing site that provides one-stop shopping for stuff other folks really don’t want you to see. Wikileaks made headlines last year when it published documents accusing Swiss bank Julius Baer of money laundering and other activities not-entirely-on-the-up-and-up. The bank sued, inspiring some laughably lame attempts to shut the site down and generating even more bad PR. About a month later the site published various “secret documents” for the Church of Scientology. The site has also been instrumental in documenting torture at Abu Ghraib, human rights protests in Tibet, and civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
But Wikileaks is now dangling by its own petard, after someone in its fundraising arm sent out an e-mail shilling for donations but put the addresses of its 58 recipients on the “To:” field instead of “Bcc:”. Someone quickly submitted the e-mail to the Wikileaks foundation as a “leaked” document, presumably to test just how devoted Wikileaks is to its own mission. Egg meet face. To its credit (and probably to some donors’ horror) the site posted the document in full, including all 58 email addresses. Many of them feature aliases like “eekameeka” and “phantom 7266,” while other less fortunate folks included what appear to be their real names and work email addresses. But even a pseudonymous address can yield a lot of information about someone if they use it to sign onto multiple sites across the Web.
Nothing wrong with giving money to a site that exists to promote freedom of the press. But now one question becomes whether organizations that got pwned by Wikileaks will start harassing the site’s donors, if only to shut off the money spigot. The bigger question is, how can you trust Wikileaks to protect whistle-blowers’ identities when it can’t protect its own donors? Wikileaks claims it’s better at protecting the sources of its information, even if it’s not so hot at protecting the sources of its funding. In a comment posted on Wired’s Threat Level blog, organization spokesdude Jay Lim says:
“…while definitely not good form, the mistake was a missed shortcut made by one of our admin people and is not related to the efforts or systems involved in source protection.”
If I’m someone who could lose my job because I posted secret information to Wikileaks, I would find this statement cold comfort.
Really, Wikileaks was hosed regardless of what it decided to do; if your whole schtick is exposing the unvarnished unredacted truth, you can’t suddenly start making exceptions for yourself. But this dumb mistake is likely to cost it contributions, both monetary and otherwise.
Will Wikileaks Drown in Its Own Red Ink?
Robert Cringely / Feb 4, 2010
We have interrupted our nonstop coverage of Apple iPad mania to bring you this important word about the freedom of information — more specifically, Wikileaks.org. I’ve written about Wikileaks several times over the last few years, in part because it’s a classic example of why the Internet is such an extraordinary telecommunications tool. Wikileaks is usually described as a “whistleblower” site, but it’s really more of a safe haven for secrets that need to be exposed — kind of like a Swiss bank, only in reverse, so it’s kind of fitting that a Swiss bank is one of its most famous targets. But instead of shielding people who are trying to hide their assets, it exposes them. Thanks to the nature of the Net, confidential sources can make those secrets public without putting their own necks on the chopping block. (Admittedly, these sources sometimes break the law or their legal agreements by doing so. And Wikileaks sometimes exposes information — like personal email addresses — of people who’ve done nothing wrong. It’s far from perfect.)
Through its work, Wikileaks has exposed money-laundering banks, brainwashing cults, repressive governments, corporate scofflaws, butter-fingered politicos, and all other manner of bad actors. Not surprisingly, the org has been sued by its deep-pocketed targets, harassed by the authorities, and attacked by DDoSers. Now it faces the biggest obstacle of all: money — or, rather, a lack thereof.
Today Wikileaks announced it has been forced to suspend its operations due to a lack of funds. That sound you hear is champagne glasses clinking in the boardrooms at Bank Julius Baer, at the Scientology HQ in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the government halls of Beijing, and in other elite locations around the globe. I can understand why the wiki’s donor pool dried up. About a year ago, Wikileaks sprung a leak itself and accidentally emailed a list of its financial patrons, some of whom probably would have preferred to remain anonymous. That email was then submitted to Wikileaks, which dutifully posted it like any other document it receives from anonymous sources. Now it’s seeking donations from the public to stay afloat, as well as technical resources (like servers and storage space) and legal expertise. Its supporters have started a Facebook group (numbering about 1,200 members at press time), and other journos besides yours truly are spreading the good word.
Why support Wikileaks?
Because investigative journalism is on a respirator, and the prognosis isn’t good. For one thing, this kind of reporting is expensive. You need publications that can afford to pay a professional reporter, or a team of them, to dig into a story for months or even years without any promise that they’ll end up with something worth publishing. Those stories might involve the use of a private detective, and they will almost always require the services of a team of attorneys to vet the copy carefully and defend the story later in court, if required. None of that stuff comes cheap.
Still, investigative reporting was how major news dailies and dozens of glossy mags made their bones back in the day. Now the number of publications that can continue to fund this kind of reporting have been whittled down to a handful, and most of those are teetering on the brink. These days it’s all about how fast you can publish a story online — even when it bears little resemblance to reality as defined by most people — and how much Google loves you as a result. There aren’t a lot of rewards for reporting and reflection there. Sure, the blogosphere can occasionally step in and break a story, just like a blind pig occasionally stumbles across an acorn. But only for the most brain-dead simple stuff — like the wrong font used in a typewritten letter. Most investigative breakthroughs involve detailed painstaking work, deep understanding of a topic, and the ability to earn the trust of a wide range of confidential sources who are willing to put their jobs and possibly their lives at risk just by talking to you.
Those things are not generally available to obsessive-compulsive pajama-wearing typists who may or may not be using their real names. And they certainly won’t be without resources like Wikileaks, which levels the information playing field for everyone, professional and amateur journos alike. So it’s your choice. You can spend $10 on a couple of lattes and a kruller, or you can spend it on keeping information flowing just a little more freely around the world. I know which one I’d pick. If Wikileaks goes down, will something new rise to take its place?
ENDING IN PAY SETTLEMENT : LEAKED DATA BACK UP, FOR NOW
Wikileaks Meets Its Minimum Cash Goal
BY Kim Zetter / February 4, 2010
The whistleblowing site Wikileaks has apparently raised the money it needs to continue operating for the time being, according to a message the organization sent out Wednesday night on Twitter. “Achieved min. funraising [sic] goal. ($200k/600k); we’re back fighting for another year, even if we have to eat rice to do it,” read the tweet, without specifying whether it had raised the full $600,000 or just $200,000.
The site announced last December that it was ceasing day-to-day operations to focus on raising money. It said contributors could still send documents and tips through its anonymous submission tool. Last week, it was ceasing operations indefinitely because it had raised only $130,000 of the $200,000 it needed to maintain base operations annually. The site says it requires $600,000 to operate if it pays its staff of technologists and curators who sift through submissions to provide context for documents and other information valuable to its users. The announcement page, beginning with: “We protect the world — but will you protect us?” has not changed, except to add that Wikileaks “will be back soon.”
“We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the U.S. detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release,” the pages reads. “You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another 10,000 hands and $1,000, a million.”
The site takes donations through PayPal, Moneybookers and TipiT, as well as checks and bank transfers. Its online TipiT tipjar indicates it has raised $31,000 using that method. Donors to its tipjar leave such messages as: “Keep scooping us — we’re very grateful for your persistence.” “Keep up the good work, shining light in dark places.” “You may be the most important resource on the net in the long term.”
The site was formally launched in 2007 as an online clearinghouse for anonymous submissions of documents, images and other data. It has received awards from Amnesty International and has been praised by media groups and others for giving whistleblowers and political dissidents a forum to expose corruption and suppression and foster transparency.
It’s run by the Sunshine Press, said to be supported by anonymous human rights activists, investigative journalists, technologists and members of the general public around the world. The site has scooped mainstream media outlets a number of times in obtaining documents and information on controversial topics that have then become the source of mainstream media stories.
In 2007, the site published a 238-page U.S. military manual detailing operations of the Defense Department’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility. It also posted a manual for operating the CIA’s rendition flights, which involved undocumented detainees who were kidnapped in various locations and flown to countries outside the United States for interrogation and torture.
Wikileaks was among the first to publish data from Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo e-mail account after a Tennessee judge tried to shutter Wikileaks by ordering its U.S. host to take it offline after a Cayman Islands bank complained that the site was publishing proprietary documents. The judge reversed his decision a week later following criticism of numerous groups that said the judge’s decision constituted prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment.