WikiLeaks is a self-proclaimed social justice platform, providing a space for anonymous “whistleblowers” to upload or “leak” confidential materials pertaining to the world’s governments and corporations for the public to view. The website dubs itself the “uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis.”
Sounds like something out of a James Bond flick right?
The phenomenon is that not one single hero is responsible for saving the planet from the diabolical deeds of powerful institutions, there are in-fact thousands of “heros” exposing evidence that they come across everyday for the world to see. The idea stems from “crowdsourcing” – tapping into the collective intelligence of the world at large to complete business-related tasks; one can imagine that the possibilities are infinite.
WikiLeaks has become somewhat of an “outlawed” operation with its obvious share of enemies. It has kept its momentum high, creating a viral or word-of-mouth buzz with arresting secret intelligence, by catalyzing itself to the forefront of journalism in the digital age.
The numbers don’t lie, within the first year of its launch in 2006, WikiLeaks received over 1.2 million documents to its online database, a testament to how the media landscape has dramatically transformed in the last two decades.
Here are a few notable leaks to get you thinking:
2009: Kaupthing Bank
Just prior to the collapse of Iceland’s banking sector, which led to the 2008–2009 Icelandic financial crisis, a leaked document shows that suspiciously large sums of money were loaned to various owners of the bank, and large debts written off. Kaupthing’s lawyers have threatened WikiLeaks with legal action, citing banking privacy laws. The leak has caused uproar in Iceland and Criminal charges relating to the multibillion euro loans to Exista and other major shareholders are being investigated.
2009: Trafigura’s super-injunction
When commodities giant Trafigura used a super-injunction to suppress the release of an internal report on toxic dumping in the Ivory Coast in newspapers, it quickly appeared on Wikileaks instead. Accepting that the release made suppression futile, Trafigura lifted the injunction.
2010: Baghdad airstrike video
Wikileaks obtained and decrypted previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths occurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on collateralmurder.com (It’s also available to watch here, but to warn you, the footage isn’t meant for the faint-hearted)
The founders of WikiLeaks believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better governance and stronger democracies. Undoubtedly, this would have been easier said than done years ago.
Traditionally those who have power and influence control the collective heartbeat of society, our cultural discourse: what we think, believe and entrust is conditioned to us by this higher power and the media landscape is the transmitter (television, radio, newspapers, the internet etc.)
In recent years this communication dynamic has turned a 180º – no longer do corporations and governments have predominant control over what is communicated to the public. With the advent of inexpensive online media such as blogs, socials media, wikis and so on, it is the public that now has accessibility to a voice, control and a conscience to influence, and encourage what it believes to be important.
The public is actively exchanging information at an exceedingly high rate. We are uploading, commenting, editorializing, sharing and engaging with each other and with organizations – it is fair to say that our influence is far reaching.