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Definition

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is an independent, non-profit online media organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources. The WikiLeaks website was launched in 2006 by the Sunshine Press. Within a year of its launch, the site claimed a database that had grown to more than 1.2 million documents.

The organization’s self-stated mandate explains “Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations.”

WikiLeaks releases include:

  • Afghan War Diary, published in July 2010, which included 76,900 previously unavailable documents.
  • Iraq War Logs, published in October 2010 in conjunction with commercial news media, which included over 400,000 documents.
  • Kenya: The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, a report on police killings in Kenya, for which the organization won a 2008 Amnesty International award.
  • Video from a 2007 helicopter attack in which Reuters journalists and Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces.
  • The collected secret ‘bibles’ of Scientology, which included organizational details and practices of the controversial religion.
  • Screenshots of Sarah Palin’s email account.
  • Membership rolls of the far-Right British National Party, including names, addresses and occupations.

WikiLeaks was originally a true wiki, allowing any user to add or edit content but the site now follows a more traditional publishing model. The site accepts submissions of “restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or historical significance.” Submissions are vetted by a group of WikiLeaks staff members and volunteers from mainstream news media. A WikiLeaks writer creates copy for the site and links to the submitted document. The identity of the source is protected.

Proponents of WikiLeaks praise the organization, among other things, for its promotion of free speech, transparency and open information. Critics of WikiLeaks assert, among other things, that documents may have been acquired illegally and also may be published without adequate fact-checking.

Julian Assange, an Internet activist and hacker, is WikiLeak’s spokesperson. Public opinion of Assange, like that of the organization itself, is divided.

Learn more:

A BBC News article on WikiLeaks: Welcome to a new age of whistle-blowing.

On TED.com, Julian Assange explains why the world needs WikiLeaks.

Declan McCullagh reports on criticism of WikiLeaks.

The Telegraph lists WikiLeaks 10 greatest stories.

Carl Brooks reports that 'Amazon says WikiLeaks violated policy, not politics.'

A mirror site of leaks is available here.

This was last updated in December 2010

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