Authors: Ma Hung-Jui (Arash Mahmoudian), Bhavyay Arora, Gloria Mico, Majorka Thanasi
Wikileaks is a “non-profit media organization,” launched in 2006 by its founder Julian Assange, an Australian activist, for the purposes of distributing original documents from anonymous sources and leakers. WikiLeaks is self-described to specialize in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving state affairs – according to its website, Wikileaks has published more than 1.2 million documents and associated analyses.
In accordance to its website, “Wikileaks will accept restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or historical significance. We do not accept rumor, opinion, other kinds of first-hand accounts or material that is publicly available elsewhere (Wikileaks n.d.).” Wikileaks acts as an innovative, secure and anonymous drop box for sources to leak information to journalists.
WikiLeaks specializes in publishing, curating, and ensuring easy access to full online archives of information that has been censored or suppressed, or is likely to be lost.
“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”
Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
Wikileaks is a multi-national media organization and associated library founded by its publisher Julian Assange in 2006. Julian Assange is an Australian citizen who is said to have served as the editor-in-chief and spokesperson for Wikileaks since its founding in 2006. The media and popular imagination currently equate him with Wikileaks itself, although with uncertain accuracy. Assange’s political philosophy is described as an opposition to the ‘stratagem-based, authoritarian conspiracy governments,’ which as he stated includes the United States of America and many other non-conventionally defined authoritarian states (Sklar 2010). He claims by exposing government secrets, he is weakening the government, and tries to hold governments accountable by leaking classified information.
Figure 1 Shows the summary SWOT analysis of Wikileaks.
Due to the fact that Wikileaks is practically independent, they are granted the opportunity to better run the organization in accordance with their own goals and beliefs. A strong management allows Wikileaks to reach its potential by utilizing strengths and eliminating vulnerability.
Their global following and volunteer staff allows them to have a very loose organization. Little if any direction or coordination is actually passed (it is just inferred as part of the cause) (BRYANT 2010). Such structuring becomes very difficult to attack and disrupt, as larger infrastructure cease to exist. Many other points and organizations will be tasked to distribute the information and will help setting up new hosting services.
Due to the radical approach to the utilization of technology and journalism, Wikileaks is not met by many competitors as most do not engage in or survive from risky endeavors (Greenberg 2012). Remarkable technology in encryptions allow Wikileaks to operate as intended – that is transferring documents to a country that offers a degree of legal protection.
Because of their primary-source and factual documents, people are trustful towards WikiLeaks since there are no bias and-or editorial commentaries. Wikileaks has created a strong brand name and it has proven to be one of its strengths. This gives WikiLeaks the ability to efficiently disseminate content since people and other news agencies put additional value on the brand.
The online market is essential for displaying information. A weak online presence in many countries and regions can result in lost opportunities for WikiLeaks.
Due to the nature of hardware, servers can overload causing extra effort and capital to maintain. Similarly, as Wikileaks grows, so does its database, the more information the site gets, the more difficult it is to store and protect all of it (Sutter 2010). If technical capabilities are not kept on par, the organization loses its purpose of anonymity as encryptions are no longer reliable. This can result in the shutdown of Wikileaks, whether through financial shortages or through governmental actions, etc.
Financially, Wikileaks is under increasing pressure because authorities are blocking their funding sources (ZETTER 2012). WikiLeaks has long shown signs of financial distress. A financial model that exclusively depends on donations is not the most reliable.
The legality of Wikileaks is on difficult ground because many of the documents published are confidential (if nothing else, publishing such documents is often a breach of copyright). Wikileaks has for now protected itself in the way it is structured. For example, it has no registered address or property in America, making it much harder for US organizations to take legal action against it. But measures like this is not enough when cases are brought up against Wikileaks. Although they have sometimes been taken offline temporarily, the site has yet to be shut down altogether. Assange remains under legal pressure in Europe and the United States (Savange 2010). He also being investigated by a grand jury in the United States.
Wikileaks is appealing to many, as it does not have substantial competitors. Many people and even news agencies are interested in the publications made by Wikileaks. Traditional journalists get to show the value that comes from parsing through complicated details, attracting new organizations (Anderson 2010). Wikileaks fulfills the desire people have towards equal right to information, by exposing the innerworkings of most governments.
Wikileaks ability to impact society with their documentation leaks proves to be an opportunity for them. With cables being analyzed, and published their popularity peaks, such recognition helps raise funds as more become aware and donate.
With modernization of many sovereign states, Wikileaks is able to expand into many new domains. And since many nations do not enforce proper internet laws (e.g. Romania) (Henderson n.d.), Wikileaks can set up new infrastructure to protect their data and servers.
Dead man’s switch. Wikileaks has an encrypted “insurance” files (contents of which are unknown) that can be found on various peer-to-peer networks (Murdock 2016). If ever Wikileaks is shutdown, the key to the files will be distributed world-wide. This gives them a higher chance to survive as an organization, since governmental officials will be concerned about the mutual-destruction.
Changes to governmental rules and laws can be a serious threat to Wikileaks, which has infrastructure in multiple countries registered from a library (Australia) to a charity organization (United States) (Whalen and Crawford 2010). If Wikileaks does not tread carefully, the government can easily target Wikileaks if popular support is attained.
Governmental measure to prevent whistleblowers from leaking confidential documents can be an issue for Wikileaks (Williams 2013). As this will prevent them from publishing new materials, as a result, their popularity will diminish and funding will be lost gradually. Although Wikileaks does not pay full-time to the hundreds of volunteers working with them, they still spend a large portion of their budget on constant maintenance of infrastructure, and for a time, travel expenses of members who risked being arrested by authorities. With high expenditures and an unreliable funding, the shutdown of Wikileaks is a high probability.
Anderson, C. W., interview by Jayshree Bajoria. 2010. How WikiLeaks Affects Journalism CFR. December 29. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.cfr.org/media-and-foreign-policy/wikileaks-affects-journalism/p23696.
BRYANT, MARTIN. 2010. “Why hasn’t the US government crushed Wikileaks?” The Next Web. October 23. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://thenextweb.com/us/2010/10/23/why-hasnt-the-us-government-crushed-wikileaks/.
Greenberg, Andy. 2012. “The WikiLeaks Spinoff That Wasn’t: An Exclusive Excerpt From This Machine Kills Secrets.” Wired. September 13. Accessed December 3, 2016. https://www.wired.com/2012/09/this-machine-kills-secrets/all/.
Henderson, Andrew. n.d. The five best host countries for website data privacy. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://nomadcapitalist.com/2013/12/15/top-5-best-countries-host-website-data-privacy/.
Murdock, Jason. 2016. “WikiLeaks unleashes new 88GB ‘insurance file’ onto the web – but what’s inside them?” International Business Times. June 21. Accessed Decemebr 3, 2016. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/wikileaks-unleashes-new-88gb-insurance-file-onto-web-whats-inside-them-1566702.
Savange, Charlie. 2010. “U.S. Weighs Prosecution of WikiLeaks Founder, but Legal Scholars Warn of Steep Hurdles.” New York Times. December 1. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/02legal.html.
Sklar, Urizenus. 2010. “Understanding Conspiracy: The Political Philosophy of Julian Assange.” The Huffington Post. August 12. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/urizenus-sklar/understanding-conspiracy-_b_793463.html.
Sutter, John D. 2010. “The technical muscle behind WikiLeaks.” CNN. July 27. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/innovation/07/26/how.wikileaks.works/.
Whalen, Jeanne, and David Crawford. 2010. “How WikiLeaks Keeps Its Funding Secret.” The Wall Street Journal. August 23. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704554104575436231926853198.
Wikileaks. n.d. Submissions. Accessed December 3, 2016. https://wikileaks.org/wiki/WikiLeaks:Submissions.
Williams, Lauren C. 2013. “How The Obama Administration Is Trying To Stop The Next Edward Snowden.” ThinkProgress. December 20. Accessed December 3, 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/how-the-obama-administration-is-trying-to-stop-the-next-edward-snowden-d4e0fdd68084#.vn929myie.
ZETTER, KIM. 2012. “WikiLeaks Wins Icelandic Court Battle Against Visa for Blocking Donations.” Wired. July 12. Accessed December 3, 2016. https://www.wired.com/2012/07/wikileaks-visa-blockade/.