Seven things it’s worth remembering about Wikileaks

Before its inglorious founder takes it down with him or before it’s chased off the Internet by enraged governments, it’s worth remembering what Wikileaks was before it became a cause celebre:

  1. It used to be a wiki. It stopped being a wiki in 2010.
  2. It was an anonymous drop-box. Whistleblowers could deposit documents without fear of being identified. This was the radical core of Wikileaks. They say that submissions are still accepted but the drop-box was switched off in 2010 too.
  3. It was about using the Internet’s open, peer-to-peer, symmetric-in-all-directions architecture to return power to ordinary people inside dumb corporations and repressive regimes. The kind of thing we always said the Internet was for. But it was also anarchic and unaccountable. It made free speech advocates and netheads queasy.
  4. There was something glamorous and edgy about it. It was morally complicated, like a le CarrĂ© plot. All those secrets and their forced disclosure, the chaos and panic that their untimely release caused, the attacks from government black-hats, the comicbook torrent of documents fired in its direction. And whatever you think of Assange – hero, demagogue, victim, criminal – he’ll be an important figure when the histories of the first decades of the Internet era are written.
  5. It became home to documents removed from the public record by courts or governments. It claimed a status above national law and essentially demolished the super-injunction and the cosy media blackout. This was bound to make it of interest to lawyers and governments right from the start.
  6. It was run by a maverick and his mates, so governance and accountability looked weak. Wikileaks contained the seeds of the Assange meltdown from the beginning. We could have anticipated all this (maybe not the Ecuadorian embassy balcony bit).
  7. It was a trial-run for a full-on infowar, for authority’s fight-back against the unruly net. Payment processors, service providers, media partners and sponsors all came under huge pressure and mostly buckled. The net’s apparently ungovernable, distributed, supra-national structure turned out to provide hardly any protection at all. We learn that a determined state supported by compliant corporations can damage or destroy an outlaw entity like Wikileaks. That’s an important lesson for you cyberpunks. You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

(update, 22 August, I collapsed the eight things into seven.)

6 thoughts on “Seven things it’s worth remembering about Wikileaks

  1. Strange that this blog post leaves out the REASON why leaks can no longer be received online and no its NOT because the submission system has been “turned off”.
    In reality the software for the submission system has been removed+the remaining leaks destroyed by DDB+an IT guy nicknamed the architect.

  2. Cinsidering that WL was under an offical USG investigation after BM was arrested it would have been more than careless to reinstall the intial+less safe sub.system leaving all potential whistleblowers/leakers vulnerable to exposure+prosecution.

  3. I never understood why they didn’t build a somewhat more resiliant system in the first place, seeing as it was always likely that someone would try to take it down. As far as I can see Wikileaks died as a useful project years ago and Assange has no interest in reviving it. Frankly, someone should build a distributed replacement that doesn’t require huge amounts of donations to keep running.

  4. Sure. I’m not sure what sharing it with your Zynga group means, exactly, but you should feel free to share it!

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