Reception of WikiLeaks

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Sheffield Indymedia spoke at a public meeting in Sheffield on 23 February 2011 about the persecution of WikiLeaks, and in defense of Julian Assange

The WikiLeaks whistleblowing website founded by Julian Assange has received praise as well as criticism. The organisation has won a number of awards, including The Economist's New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards[1] and Amnesty International's UK Media Award in 2009.[2][3] In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites "that could totally change the news",[4] and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award[5] and was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year in 2010.[6] The UK Information Commissioner has stated that "WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen".[7] In its first days, an Internet petition calling for the cessation of extrajudicial intimidation of WikiLeaks attracted over six hundred thousand signatures.[8] Supporters of WikiLeaks in the media and academia have commended it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, supporting freedom of the press, and enhancing democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutions.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

At the same time, several U.S. government officials have criticized WikiLeaks for exposing classified information and claimed that the leaks harm national security and compromise international diplomacy.[16][17][18][19][20] From the perspective of the U.S. security establishment, the issue of concern is not only the publication of sensitive information but also, at a deeper level, the anonymity afforded by the internet.[21] Several human rights organisations requested with respect to earlier document releases that WikiLeaks adequately redact the names of civilians working with international forces, in order to prevent repercussions.[22] Some journalists have likewise criticised a perceived lack of editorial discretion when releasing thousands of documents at once and without sufficient analysis.[23] In response to some of the negative reaction, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern over the "cyber war" against WikiLeaks,[24] and in a joint statement with the Organization of American States the UN Special Rapporteur has called on states and other actors to keep international legal principles in mind.[25]

Background[edit]

Timeline[edit]

2006: Julian Assange, an Australian programmer and activist, founded WikiLeaks which the intention of publishing leaked documents.

2010: WikiLeaks came to international attention when it published a series of leaks provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. These leaks included the Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder video (April 2010),[26][27] the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), and Cablegate (November 2010). After the 2010 leaks, the United States government launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks.[28]

2013: Assange stood for the Australian Senate for the short-lived WikiLeaks Party but failed to win a seat.[29][30][31]

2016: During the 2016 U.S. election campaign, WikiLeaks published confidential Democratic Party emails, showing that the party's national committee favoured Hillary Clinton over her rival Bernie Sanders in the primaries.[32]

Public opinion[edit]

  •  Australia: A UMR Research December 2010 poll showed that the majority of Australians are against the official government position on WikiLeaks. The findings which were done on 1,000 individuals show 59% support WikiLeaks' action in making the cables public and 25% oppose it. This was asked a few weeks after the initial release of the cables. The poll also looked at issues in relation to Julian Assange, with the results showing a positive opinion on him.[33]
  •  Germany: According to a telephone survey of 1,004 German residents age 18 and older, which was conducted end of November for the German public broadcaster ARD, a majority of 53% disapprove of WikiLeaks, while 43% are generally in favour of the platform. Asked about the specific release of US diplomatic cables, almost two-Thirds (65%) believe that these documents should not be published, compared to 31% that agree that they are being released to the public.[34]
  •  Pakistan: A December 2010 a Gallup poll found that 52% of Pakistanis believe that "America herself has published the documents on purpose to create unrest," while 24% believe that this is not the case and 24% did not respond.[35]
  •  United Kingdom: A CNN poll of 2,010 British adults conducted in December 2010 revealed that more people agree than disagree that WikiLeaks was right to release the cables, by 42% to 33%. The remaining 25% did not have a position. According to the same poll 41% of Britons believe that Assange should not be prosecuted for releasing the secret diplomatic cables, while 30% do want him prosecuted. Almost half of the respondents (44%) also believe that the sex charges against Assange are "an excuse" to keep him in custody so that the U.S. government can prosecute him for releasing secret diplomatic cables, while only 13% disagree. Nevertheless, almost half of Britons stated that their government should send Assange to Sweden for questioning. Older people were significantly more likely to oppose WikiLeaks. While 42% of persons 65 and older say Assange should be prosecuted for releasing the secret diplomatic cables, this view is only held by 21% of those between 25 and 34.[36]
  •  United States: According to a telephone survey of 1,029 US residents age 18 and older, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in December 2010, 70% of American respondents – particularly Republicans and older people – think the leaks are doing more harm than good by allowing enemies of the United States government to see confidential and secret information about U.S. foreign policy. Approximately 22% – especially young liberals – think the leaks are doing more good than harm by making the U.S. government more transparent and accountable. A majority of 59% also want to see the people behind WikiLeaks prosecuted, while 31% said the publication of secrets is protected under the First Amendment guarantee of a free press.[37]

Response from governments[edit]

Australia[edit]

On 16 March 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority added WikiLeaks to their proposed list of sites that will be blocked for all Australians if the mandatory internet filtering scheme is implemented as planned.[38][39] The blacklisting had been removed by 29 November 2010.[40]

On 2 December 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a statement that she 'absolutely condemns' WikiLeaks' actions and that the release of information on the site was 'grossly irresponsible' and 'illegal.'[41] WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is Australian and he responded two days later by accusing his prime minister of betraying him as an Australian citizen.[42] However, on 8 December 2010 – after WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables in which United States diplomats labelled him a "control freak", former Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (now resigned) Kevin Rudd said the leak of the US secret cables raised questions about US security. Rudd said, "The core responsibility, and therefore legal liability, goes to those individuals responsible for that initial unauthorised release."[43][44] In an article in The Australian, Assange claimed, "The Australian attorney-general is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US."[45] However, Australian officials later said that Assange has done nothing illegal.[46] Since then, representatives of the Australian Federal Government and the major opposition including Craig Emerson the Minister for Trade have come out in support of WikiLeaks and against some violent rhetoric directed against them, stating; "We condemn absolutely the threats that have been made by some people in the United States against Julian Assange."[47]

Brazil[edit]

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed his "solidarity" with Julian Assange following Assange's 2010 arrest in the United Kingdom. Lula went on to state – in reference to WikiLeaks disclosure of classified US diplomatic cables in November and December 2010 – WikiLeaks had "exposed a diplomacy that had appeared unreachable."[48][49] He further criticised the arrest of Julian Assange as "an attack on freedom of expression".[50]

China[edit]

The WikiLeaks website claims that the government of the People's Republic of China has attempted to block all traffic to websites with "wikileaks" in the URL since 2007, but that this can be bypassed by encrypted connections or by using one of WikiLeaks' many covert URLs.[51]

Ecuador[edit]

In late November 2010, a representative of the government of Ecuador made what was, apparently, an unsolicited public offer to Julian Assange to establish residency in Ecuador. Deputy Foreign Minister Kinto Lucas stated "we are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just on the Internet, but in various public forums."[52] Lucas went on to state his praise for WikiLeaks and Assange calling them "[people] who are constantly investigating and trying to get light out of the dark corners of [state] information."[53] The following day, however, president Rafael Correa distanced his administration from the offer stating that Lucas had been speaking for himself and not on the government's behalf. Correa then criticised Assange for "breaking the laws of the United States and leaking this type of information."[54]

France[edit]

The French Industry Minister Éric Besson said in a letter to the CGIET technology agency, WikiLeaks "violates the secret of diplomatic relations and puts people protected by diplomatic secret in danger." Therefore, it would be 'unacceptable' that the site was hosted on servers based in France. The minister asked for measures to bar WikiLeaks from France.[55]

Germany[edit]

The home of Theodor Reppe, registrant of the German WikiLeaks domain name, wikileaks.de, was raided on 24 March 2009 after WikiLeaks released the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) censorship blacklist.[56] The site was not affected.[57][58]

Iceland[edit]

After the release of the 2007 Baghdad airstrikes video and as they prepared to release film of the Granai airstrike, Julian Assange has said that his group of volunteers came under intense surveillance. In an interview and Twitter posts he said that a restaurant in Reykjavík where his group of volunteers met came under surveillance in March; that there was "covert following and hidden photography" by police and foreign intelligence services; that an apparent British intelligence agent made thinly veiled threats in a Luxembourg car park; and that one of the volunteers was detained by police for 21 hours. Another volunteer posted that computers were seized, saying "If anything happens to us, you know why... and you know who is responsible."[59] According to the Columbia Journalism Review, "the Icelandic press took a look at Assange's charges of being surveilled in Iceland [...] and, at best, have found nothing to substantiate them."[60]

In August 2009, Kaupthing Bank secured a court order preventing Iceland's national broadcaster, RÚV, from broadcasting a risk analysis report showing the bank's substantial exposure to debt default risk. This information had been leaked to WikiLeaks and remained available on the WikiLeaks website; faced with an injunction minutes before broadcast, the channel aired a screen-shot of the WikiLeaks site instead of the scheduled piece on the bank. Citizens of Iceland were reported to be outraged that RÚV was prevented from broadcasting news of relevance.[61] Therefore, WikiLeaks has been credited with inspiring the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a bill meant to reclaim Iceland's 2007 Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) ranking as first in the world for free speech. It aims to enact a range of protections for sources, journalists, and publishers.[62][63] Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer and member of the Icelandic parliament, is the chief sponsor of the proposal.

India[edit]

In identical statements to both Houses of Parliament on 18 March 2011, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected all allegations against his government revealed by the United States diplomatic cables leak, including allegations of bribery during the 2008 Lok Sabha vote of confidence. Singh told Parliament, "The Government of India cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications. I may point out that many of the persons referred to in those reports have stoutly denied the veracity of the contents. An issue was raised that the offence of bribery was committed in India. Government rejects that allegation absolutely and firmly."[64][65][66]

In an interview with Times Now, Julian Assange labelled the Indian government's response as "one of the worst in the world" and a "clear attempt to mislead the nation on what the cables were". Assange stated, "The response by the government left a lot to be desired. Before it was clear to me that Prime Minister Mr. Singh was deliberately attempting to mislead the Indian people on what type of material this was. People tell me that he is not personally corrupt, I do not know myself as I don't have information on that. But, his reaction left a lot to be desired. It wasn't to fully and frankly investigate what was going on and then provide finding to the parliament. Rather, it was attempt to spin the issue and I suspect that has come from experience in dealing with similar scandals in the past."[67]

Iran[edit]

The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also criticised WikiLeaks following the release of United States diplomatic cables. Ahmadinejad claimed that the release of cables purporting to show concern with Iran by Arab states was a planned leak by the United States to discredit his government, though he did not indicate whether he believed WikiLeaks was in collusion with the United States or was simply an unwitting facilitator.[68]

Libya[edit]

Muammar Gaddafi blamed WikiLeaks for the Tunisian revolution "[Do not be fooled by] WikiLeaks which publishes information written by lying ambassadors in order to create chaos."[69]

Philippines[edit]

President Benigno Aquino III condemned WikiLeaks and leaked documents related to the country, saying that it can lead to massive cases of miscommunication.[70]

Russia[edit]

In December 2010, the office of the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev issued a statement calling on non-governmental organisations to consider "nominating [Julian] Assange as a Nobel Prize laureate." The announcement followed commentary by Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin who stated that Julian Assange's earlier arrest on Swedish charges demonstrated that there was "no media freedom" in the west.[71]

Thailand[edit]

The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) is currently censoring the WikiLeaks website in Thailand[72] and more than 40,000 other websites[73] because of the emergency decree declared in Thailand at the beginning of April 2010 as a result of political instabilities.[74]

Turkey[edit]

The Turkish government blocked access to Wikileaks on 20 July 2016 after it released nearly 300,000 emails involving the ruling Justice and Development Party. The email releases were in response to the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.[75]

United Nations[edit]

In December 2010 United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank LaRue stated he agreed with the idea that Julian Assange was a "martyr for free speech." LaRue went on to say Assange or other WikiLeaks staff should not face legal accountability for any information they disseminated, noting that, "if there is a responsibility by leaking information it is of, exclusively of the person that made the leak and not of the media that publish it. And this is the way that transparency works and that corruption has been confronted in many cases."[76] High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, subsequently voiced concern at the revelation that private companies were being pressured by states to sever their relationships with WikiLeaks.[77]

United States[edit]

On 17 July 2010, Jacob Appelbaum spoke on behalf of WikiLeaks at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in New York City, replacing Assange because of the presence of federal agents at the conference.[78][79] He announced that the WikiLeaks submission system was again operating, after it had been suspended temporarily.[78][80][81] Assange was a surprise speaker at a TED conference on 19 July 2010 in Oxford, England, and confirmed that the site had begun accepting submissions again.[82]

Upon returning to the US from the Netherlands, on 29 July, Appelbaum was detained for three hours at the airport by US agents, according to anonymous sources.[83] The sources told CNET that Appelbaum's bag was searched, receipts from his bag were photocopied, and his laptop computer was inspected, although in what manner was unknown.[83] Appelbaum reportedly refused to answer questions without a lawyer present, and was not allowed to make a telephone call. His three mobile telephones were reportedly taken and not returned.[83] On 31 July, he spoke at a Defcon conference and mentioned his telephone being "seized". After speaking, he was approached by two FBI agents and questioned.[83]

Access to WikiLeaks is currently blocked in the United States Library of Congress.[84] On 3 December 2010 the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum forbidding all unauthorised federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLeaks and other websites.[85] The U.S. Army, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Justice Department are considering criminally prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange "on grounds they encouraged the theft of government property",[86] although former prosecutors say doing so would be difficult.[87] According to a report on the website Daily Beast, the Obama administration asked the UK, Germany, and Australia among others to also consider bringing criminal charges against Assange for the Afghan war leaks and to help limit Assange's travels across international borders.[88] Columbia University students have been warned by their Office of Career Services that the U.S. State Department had contacted the office in an email saying that the diplomatic cables which were released by WikiLeaks were "still considered classified" and that "online discourse about the documents 'would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information'".[89]

All U.S. federal government staff have been blocked from viewing WikiLeaks.[90]

As for individual responses, government officials had mixed feelings. Although Hillary Clinton refused to comment on specific reports, she claimed that the leaks "put people's lives in danger" and "threatens national security".[91] Former United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commented, "Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."[91]

Following the November 2010 release of United States diplomatic cables, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the group saying, "this disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests, it is an attack on the international community."[92] Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the United States House of Representatives has stated his support of Clinton's position for listing WikiLeaks as a "foreign terrorist organisation" explaining that "WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States."[93] In a contrary statement, secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that concerns about the disclosures were "over-wrought" in terms of their likely adverse impact on ordinary diplomatic activities.[94] Philip J. Crowley, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, stated on 2 December 2010 that the US State Department does not regard WikiLeaks as a media organisation. "WikiLeaks is not a media organisation. That is our view." Crowley said and with regard to Assange;"Well, his – I mean he could be considered a political actor. I think he's an anarchist, but he's not a journalist."[95] US Senator Joe Lieberman called on Amazon.com to shut down a WikiLeaks web-site, praised the company for doing so, and called for other companies to follow suit.[96] He also proposed new legislation targeting similar cases – Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD Act).[97][98] Lieberman later said that also The New York Times and other news organisations publishing the US embassy cables being released by WikiLeaks could be investigated for breaking US espionage laws.[99] After these statements the US Ambassador to Australia assured the Australian government and people that "The concerns we have do not centre on Julian Assange and they never should have"[100]

U.S. Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo has held mixed views on WikiLeaks, citing leaked e-mails from Hillary Clinton, campaign chair John Podesta, and former Democratic National Committee chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz even using his Twitter as a platform to call attention to the "newly released emails of Hillary Clinton and her cronies," before a FOX appearance on the same topic.[101] In April 2017, as CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia."[102]

In April 2017, AG Jeff Sessions stated that arresting Julian Assange of Wikileaks was a priority: "We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail."[103]

Venezuela[edit]

Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, stated his support for WikiLeaks following the release of US diplomatic cables in November 2010 that showed the United States had tried to rally support from regional governments to isolate Venezuela. "I have to congratulate the people of WikiLeaks for their bravery and courage," Chávez commented in televised remarks.[104]

Response from media[edit]

People's Republic of China[edit]

Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.[105] An article in The New Yorker said:

One of the WikiLeaks activists owned a server that was being used as a node for the Tor network. Millions of secret transmissions passed through it. The activist noticed that hackers from China were using the network to gather foreign governments' information, and began to record this traffic. Only a small fraction has ever been posted on WikiLeaks, but the initial tranche served as the site's foundation, and Assange was able to say, "[w]e have received over one million documents from thirteen countries."[106]

— Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker

Assange responded to the suggestion that eavesdropping on Chinese hackers played a crucial part in the early days of WikiLeaks by saying "the imputation is incorrect. The facts concern a 2006 investigation into Chinese espionage one of our contacts was involved in. Somewhere between none and handful of those documents were ever released on WikiLeaks. Non-government targets of the Chinese espionage, such as Tibetan associations were informed (by us)".[107]

Russian Federation[edit]

Russian investigative reporter Andrei Soldatov has criticised WikiLeaks for disclosing documents "without checking of the facts, without putting them in context, and without analysing them." Soldatov believes WikiLeaks is "filling the gap" left by the decline of investigative journalism with a sensationalist alternative while journalistic support of WikiLeaks is motivated by anger over declining funding and resources for investigative reporting.[108]

Response from corporations[edit]

U.S. diplomatic cables leak responses[edit]

According to The Times (London), WikiLeaks and its members have complained about continuing harassment and surveillance by law enforcement and intelligence organisations, including extended detention, seizure of computers, veiled threats, "covert following and hidden photography."[109] Two lawyers for Julian Assange in the United Kingdom told The Guardian that they believed they were being watched by the security services after the U.S. cables leak, which started on 28 November 2010.[110]

Furthermore, several companies ended association with WikiLeaks. After providing 24-hour notification, American-owned EveryDNS deleted WikiLeaks from its entries on 2 December 2010, citing DDoS attacks that "threatened the stability of its infrastructure".[111][112] The website's 'info' DNS lookup remained operational at alternative addresses for direct access respectively to the WikiLeaks and Cablegate websites.[113] On the same day, Amazon.com severed its association with WikiLeaks, to which it was providing infrastructure services, after an intervention by an aide of U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman.[96][97][114] Amazon denied acting under political pressure, citing a violation of its terms of service.[115] Citing indirect pressure from the U.S. Government, Tableau Software also deleted WikiLeaks' data from its website for people to use for data visualisation.[116][117]

During the days following, hundreds of (and eventually more than a thousand)[118] mirror websites of the WikiLeaks website were established, and the Anonymous group of Internet activists asked sympathizers to attack the websites of companies which opposed WikiLeaks,[119] under the banner of Operation Payback, previously directed at anti-piracy organisations.[120] AFP reported that attempts to deactivate the wikileaks.org address had resulted in the website surviving via the so-called Streisand effect, whereby attempts to censor information online causes it to be replicated in many places.[121]

On 3 December, PayPal, the payment processor owned by eBay, permanently ended the account of the Wau Holland Foundation that had been redirecting donations to WikiLeaks. PayPal alleged that the account violated its "Acceptable Use Policy", specifically that the account was used for "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity."[122][123] The Vice President of PayPal stated later that they stopped accepting payments after the "State Department told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward." Later the same day, he said that his previous statement was incorrect, and that it was in fact based on a letter from the State Department to WikiLeaks.[124] On 8 December 2010, the Wau Holland Foundation released a press statement, saying it has filed a legal action against PayPal for blocking its account used for WikiLeaks payments and for libel due to PayPal's allegations of "illegal activity".[125]

On 6 December, the Swiss bank PostFinance announced that it had frozen the assets of Assange that it holds, totalling €31,000. In a statement on its website, it stated that this was because Assange "provided false information regarding his place of residence" when opening the account.[126] WikiLeaks released a statement saying this was because Assange, "as a homeless refugee attempting to gain residency in Switzerland, had used his lawyer's address in Geneva for the bank's correspondence".[127]

On the same day, MasterCard announced that it was "taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products", adding "MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal."[128] The next day, Visa Inc. announced it was suspending payments to WikiLeaks, pending "further investigations".[129] In a move of support for WikiLeaks, the organization XIPWIRE established a way to donate to WikiLeaks, and waived their fees.[130] Datacell, the Iceland-based IT company controlled by Swiss investors that enabled WikiLeaks to accept credit card donations, announced that it would take legal action against Visa Europe and MasterCard, in order to resume allowing payments to the website.[131]

On 7 December 2010, The Guardian stated that people could donate to WikiLeaks via Commerzbank in Kassel, Germany, or Landsbanki in Iceland, or by post to a post office box at the University of Melbourne or at the wikileaks.ch domain.[132]

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that Visa, MasterCard, and Amazon may be "violating WikiLeaks' right to freedom of expression" by withdrawing their services.[133]

On 21 December, media reported that Apple Inc. had removed an application from its App Store, which provided access to the embassy cable leaks.[134]

As part of its 'Initial Assessments Pursuant to... WikiLeaks', the US Presidential Executive Office has issued a memorandum to the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies asking whether they have an 'insider threat program'.[135][136]

On 14 July 2011, WikiLeaks and DataCell ehf. of Iceland filed a complaint against the international card companies, VISA Europe and MasterCard Europe, for infringement of the antitrust rules of the EU, in response to their withdrawal of financial services to the organisation. In a joint press release, the organisations stated: "The closure by VISA Europe and MasterCard of Datcell's access to the payment card networks in order to stop donations to WikiLeaks violates the competition rules of the European Community."[137] DataCell filed a complaint[138] with the European Commission on 14 July 2011.

Response from the financial industry[edit]

Since the publications of CableGate, WikiLeaks has experienced an unprecedented global financial blockade by major finance companies including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal although there has been no legal accusation of any wrongdoing.

In October 2010, it was reported that the organization Moneybookers, which collected donations for WikiLeaks, had ended its relationship with the website. Moneybookers stated that its decision had been made "to comply with money laundering or other investigations conducted by government authorities, agencies or commissions."[139]

On 18 December 2010, Bank of America announced it would "not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for Wikileaks," citing "Wikileaks might be engaged in activities... inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments". WikiLeaks responded in a tweet by encouraging their sympathizers who were BoA customers to close their accounts. Bank of America has long been believed to be the target of WikiLeaks' next major release.[140]

Late in 2010, Bank of America communicated with the law company Hunton & Williams to stop WikiLeaks. Hunton & Williams assembled a group of security specialists, HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies.

During 5 and 6 February 2011, the group Anonymous hacked HBGary's website, copied tens of thousands of documents from HBGary, posted tens of thousands of company emails online, and usurped Barr's Twitter account in revenge. Some of the documents taken by Anonymous show HBGary Federal was working on behalf of Bank of America to respond to WikiLeaks' planned release of the bank's internal documents. Emails detailed a supposed business proposal by HBGary to assist Bank of America's law company, Hunton & Williams, and revealed that the companies were willing to violate the law to damage WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

CEO Aaron Barr thought he'd uncovered the hackers' identities and like rats, they'd scurry for cover. If he could nail them, he could cover up the crimes H&W, HBGary, and BoA planned, bring down WikiLeaks, decapitate Anonymous, and place his opponents in prison while collecting a cool fee. He thought he was 88% right; he was 88% wrong.[141]

— Leigh Lundin, Criminal Brief

In October 2011, Julian Assange said the financial blockade had destroyed 95% of WikiLeaks' revenues and announced that it was suspending publishing operations in order to concentrate on fighting the blockade and raising new funds.[142]

On 18 July 2012, WikiLeaks, shunned by the financial industry and almost insolvent, announced that it had found a new method to accept donations. Accordingly, the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (FDNN) had agreed to channel contributions via Carte Bleue, and WikiLeaks claimed that contractual obligation would prevent Visa and MasterCard blocking participation with such transactions.[143]

On 24 January 2014, WikiLeaks announced via Twitter that the majority of its donations came from (the cryptocurrencies) Litecoin and Bitcoin.[citation needed] WikiLeaks massive returns from early investment into Bitcoin cryptocurrency has helped the organisation to survive various legal and financial hardships.[144]

In December 2017, after five years of processing donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, Freedom of the Press Foundation's board unanimously found that the financial blockade of WikiLeaks by major payment processors was no longer in effect, and severed ties with WikiLeaks as of 8 January 2018.[145][146]

Support for WikiLeaks and Assange[edit]

Daniel Ellsberg (2006) has made numerous media interviews supporting WikiLeaks.[147][148]

In July 2010 Veterans for Peace president Mike Ferner editorialised on the group's website "neither Wikileaks nor the soldier or soldiers who divulged the documents should be prosecuted for revealing this information. We should give them a medal."[149]

Documentary filmmaker John Pilger wrote an August 2010 editorial in the Australian publication Green Left titled "Wikileaks must be defended." In it, Pilger said WikiLeaks represented the interests of "public accountability" and a new form of journalism at odds with "the dominant section ... devoted merely to taking down what cynical and malign power tells it."[150]

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, has been a frequent defender of WikiLeaks. Following the November 2010 release of U.S. diplomatic cables, Ellsberg rejected criticism that the site was endangering the lives of U.S. military personnel and intelligence assets stating "not one single soldier or informant has been in danger from any of the WikiLeaks releases. That risk has been largely overblown."[147] Ellsberg went on to note that government claims to the contrary were "a script that they roll out every time there's a leak of any sort."[148] Following the US diplomatic cable release, which a number of media reports sought to differentiate from Ellsberg's whistleblowing,[151] Ellsberg claimed, "EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time."[152]

On 3 December 2010 Republican Congressman of Texas, Ron Paul, spoke out publicly during a Fox Business interview in support of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange; "In a free society we're supposed to know the truth," Paul said. "In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble." Paul went on to state, "Why don't we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?"[153] In another speech at US House of Representatives Paul again defended WikiLeaks against criticism for revealing the truth and warned the US administration that "lying is not patriotic".[154]

Fellow Republican congressman Connie Mack IV of Florida also praised WikiLeaks, stating that Americans have a right to know the contents of the leaks, "no matter how we acquire that knowledge."[155]

Australia's most senior and high-profile media professionals expressed their support for WikiLeaks in a letter to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.[156] The letter was initiated by the Walkley Foundation, who present the yearly Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The letter was signed by "the ten members of the Walkley Advisory Board as well as editors of major Australian newspapers and news websites and the news directors of the country's three commercial TV networks and two public broadcasters." Their position (an extract from the letter) is summarised as follows:

In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret. It is the media's duty to responsibly report such material if it comes into their possession. To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks, and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks, is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press."[157]

Following the November 2010 leak of United States diplomatic cables The Atlantic, in a staff editorial, opined "Wikileaks is a powerful new way for reporters and human rights advocates to leverage global information technology systems to break the heavy veil of government and corporate secrecy that is slowly suffocating the American press." Calling legal and physical threats against WikiLeaks volunteers "shameful" the magazine went on to state, "Not since President Richard Nixon directed his minions to go after Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan ... has a working journalist and his source been subjected to the kind of official intimidation and threats that have been directed at Assange and Manning by high-ranking members of the Obama Administration."[158]

On 4 December 2010, Reporters Without Borders condemned the "blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure" being directed at WikiLeaks. The organisation is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.[159] On 21 December the organisation announced it will host a mirror website for the leaked US diplomatic cables being published by WikiLeaks.[160]

In an article titled "Only WikiLeaks can save US policy" published on the online foreign affairs magazine The Diplomat, former long-time CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael Scheuer said the source of interest in WikiLeaks revelations was in the inherent dishonesty of recent U.S. administrations. "In recent years, the US public has had to hear its leaders repeatedly tell Americans that black was white," Scheuer wrote, referencing the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.[161]

Evan Hughes, editor-in-chief of wired.com published his support for WikiLeaks in an online editorial titled "Why WikiLeaks is Good for America." Despite an often contentious relationship between Wired and WikiLeaks, with the former having been accused by the latter of complicity in the identification and arrest of Chelsea Manning, Hughes argued that "WikiLeaks stands to improve our democracy, not weaken it." He went on to note that "The greatest threat we face right now from WikiLeaks is not the information it has spilled and may spill in the future, but the reactionary response to it that's building in the United States that promises to repudiate the rule of law and our free speech traditions, if left unchecked."[162]

A December 2010 rally in Australia protesting the Australian government's treatment of Julian Assange

The New York Times reported that over 200 WikiLeaks mirror sites sprang up after some hosting companies cut their services to the company.[163] On 5 December, a group of activists and hackers known as "Anonymous" called upon supporters to attack sites of companies that oppose WikiLeaks as part of Operation Avenge Assange.[164] PayPal has been targeted following their decision to stop processing donations for WikiLeaks.[165][166] Gregg Housh, who previously worked on other projects with Anonymous, said that he had noticed an organised attempt taking place to attack companies that have not supported WikiLeaks. In reference to the support being shown for WikiLeaks, Mr. Housh said; "The reason is amazingly simple, we all believe that information should be free, and the Internet should be free."[167] On 8 December 2010, the PayPal website was victim of a denial-of-service attack by Anonymous.[168][169][170] Later that day, PayPal announced in their blog that they will release all remaining funds in the account to the foundation that was raising funds for WikiLeaks.[171][172] On the same day, the websites of Visa and MasterCard were attacked by WikiLeaks supporters. By then over 1,200 mirror sites had been set up for hosting content no longer accessible at WikiLeaks.com. Anonymous also issued a fresh statement; "While we don't have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency, and we counter censorship ... This is why we intend to utilise our resources to raise awareness, attack those against, and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy."[173]

In December 2010, the Internet Society stated that despite the international concern about the content released by WikiLeaks, "we nevertheless believe it must be subject to the same laws and policies of availability as all Internet sites" and that "free expression should not be restricted by governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet". ISOC also called for appropriate action to "pursue and prosecute entities (if any) that acted maliciously to take it [WikiLeaks] off the air" because suppressing communication would merely serve to "undermine the integrity of the global Internet and its operation".[174]

On 8 December 2010 a petition was launched on Avaaz in support of WikiLeaks, which was signed by over 250 thousand people within the first few hours, the total number went up to 600 thousand by 15 December 2010.[175][176]

In early December 2010, Noam Chomsky offered his support to protesters across Australia planning to take to the streets in defence of WikiLeaks.[177] In an interview for Democracy Now!, Chomsky criticized the government response, saying, "perhaps the most dramatic revelation ... is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service."[178]

In 2015, Randy Credico made news for being handcuffed and thrown out of the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner for supporting Assange.[citation needed] Randy appeared in an interview with Jimmy Dore after and described the experience, "I'm really feeling guilty about Julian Assange, being in that room, and everybody here about to be celebrated, CNN... and so I walked into the middle of the room[...] and I went up there before the program actually started. I just couldn't hold back because I didn't want to interrupt the comedian. So i started yelling out to the stage, 'We should be celebrating and supporting Julian Assange. He's the greatest journalist, god bless..." and so i went to about three different spots, as loud as I possibly could bellow out those words, 'We, CNN, all of the news organisations, should be celebrating, and we should be commending Julian Assange. 100% accuracy! he's sacrificing his liberty!'[179]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 2008, Index on Censorship presented WikiLeaks with their inaugural Economist New Media Award.[180]

In 2009, Amnesty International awarded WikiLeaks their Media Award for exposing "extra judicial killings and disappearances" in Kenya.[181]

In 2009, Ars Electronica awarded WikiLeaks an Award of Distinction in the Digital Communities category.[182]

In 2010, TIME Magazine Person of the Year, People's Choice (highest global vote) and the Sam Adams Award for Integrity.[183]

In 2011, Walkley Foundation for Journalism awarded the "Most outstanding contribution to journalism" Walkley Award to WikiLeaks.[184] The Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, the Blanquerna Award for Best Communicator, the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, the Voltaire Award for Free Speech, the International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists,[183] the "VII José Couso Press Freedom Award" from Colexio Profesional de Xornalistas de Galicia and Club de Prensa de Ferrol[185] and the Blanquerna Faculty of Communication awarded the "Blanquerna Best Communicator Award" to WikiLeaks.[186]

In 2012 the Privacy International Hero of Privacy.[183]

In 2013 the Global Exchange Human Rights People's Choice Award, the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts and the Brazilian Press Association Human Rights Award.[183]

In 2014 the Kazakhstan Union of Journalists Top Prize.[183]

Additionally, Wikileaks was nominated for awards but did not win:

1 February 2011, Norwegian politician and musician Snorre Valen nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize, totaling six nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in consecutive years (2010-2015) for the organization [187]

2015 Wikileaks received a nomination for the UN Mandela Prize.[183] six nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in consecutive years (2010-2015)

Criticism of Wikileaks and Assange[edit]

WikiLeaks has attracted criticism from a variety of sources.[188]

Internal conflicts and lack of transparency[edit]

In 2007 John Young, operator of Cryptome, left his position on the WikiLeaks Board of Directors accusing the group of being a "CIA conduit". Young subsequently retreated from his assertion but has continued to be critical of the site.[189] In a 2010 interview with CNET.com Young accused the group of a lack of transparency regarding their fundraising and financial management. He went on to state his belief that WikiLeaks could not guarantee whistleblowers the anonymity or confidentiality they claimed and that he "would not trust them with information if it had any value, or if it put me at risk or anyone that I cared about at risk."[190]

Within WikiLeaks, there has been public disagreement between founder and spokesperson Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the website's former German representative who was suspended by Assange. Domscheit-Berg announced on 28 September 2010 that he was leaving the organisation due to internal conflicts over management of the website.[191][192][193]

Julian Assange (left) with Daniel Domscheit-Berg who was ejected from WikiLeaks and started a rival "whistleblower" organisation named OpenLeaks.

On 25 September 2010, after being suspended by Assange for "disloyalty, insubordination and destabilisation", Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the German spokesman for WikiLeaks, told Der Spiegel that he was resigning, saying "WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that's why I am leaving the project."[194][195] Assange accused Domscheit-Berg of leaking information to Newsweek, with Domscheit-Berg claiming that the WikiLeaks team was unhappy with Assange's management and handling of the Afghan war document releases.[195] Daniel Domscheit-Berg wanted greater transparency in the articles released to the public. Another vision of his was to focus on providing technology that allowed whistle-blowers to protect their identity as well as a more transparent way of communicating with the media, forming new partnerships and involving new people.[196] Domscheit-Berg left with a small group to start OpenLeaks, a new leak organisation and website with a different management and distribution philosophy.[194][197]

While leaving, Daniel Domscheit-Berg copied and then deleted roughly 3,500 unpublished documents from the WikiLeaks servers,[198] including information on the US government's 'no-fly list' and inside information from 20 right-wing organisations, and according to a WikiLeaks statement, 5 gigabytes of data relating to Bank of America, the internal communications of 20 neo-Nazi organisations and US intercept information for "over a hundred Internet companies".[199] Assange stated that Domscheit-Berg had deleted video files of the Granai massacre by a US Bomber. WikiLeaks had scheduled the video for publication before its deletion.[200] In Domscheit-Berg's book he wrote: "To this day, we are waiting for Julian to restore security, so that we can return the material to him, which was on the submission platform."[201] In August 2011, Domscheit-Berg claimed he permanently deleted the files "in order to ensure that the sources are not compromised."[202]

Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old Icelandic university student, resigned after he challenged Assange on his decision to suspend Domscheit-Berg and was bluntly rebuked.[195] Iceland MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir also left WikiLeaks, citing lack of transparency, lack of structure, and poor communication flow in the organisation.[203] According to the British newspaper, The Independent, at least a dozen key supporters of WikiLeaks left the website during 2010.[204]

Non-disclosure agreements[edit]

Those working for WikiLeaks are reportedly required to sign sweeping non-disclosure agreements covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure.[205] The penalty for non-compliance in one such agreement was reportedly £12 million.[205] WikiLeaks has been challenged for this practice, as it is seen to be hypocritical for an organisation dedicated to transparency to limit the transparency of its inner workings and limit the accountability of powerful individuals in the organisation.[205][206]

Allegations of anti-Clinton and pro-Trump bias[edit]

Assange wrote on WikiLeaks in February 2016: "I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgement and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. ...  she certainly should not become president of the United States."[207] In a 2017 interview by Amy Goodman, Julian Assange said that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like choosing between cholera or gonorrhea. "Personally, I would prefer neither."[208] WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison stated that the site was not choosing which damaging publications to release, rather releasing information available to them.[209] In conversations that were leaked in February 2018, Assange expressed a preference for a Republican victory in the 2016 election, saying that "Dems+Media+liberals would [sic] then form a block to reign [sic] in their worst qualities. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities, dems+media+neoliberals will be mute."[210] In further leaked correspondence with the Trump campaign on election day (8 November 2016), WikiLeaks encouraged the Trump campaign to contest the election results as being "rigged" should they lose.[211]

Having released information that exposed the inner workings of a broad range of organisations and politicians, WikiLeaks started by 2016 to focus almost exclusively on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.[212] In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, WikiLeaks only exposed material damaging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks even rejected the opportunity to publish unrelated leaks, because it dedicated all its resources to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. According to The New York Times, WikiLeaks timed one of its large leaks so that it would happen on the eve of the Democratic Convention.[213] The Washington Post noted that the leaks came at an important sensitive moment in the Clinton campaign, as she was preparing to announce her vice-presidential pick and unite the party behind her.[214] The Sunlight Foundation, an organisation that advocates for open government, said that such actions meant that WikiLeaks was no longer striving to be transparent but rather sought to achieve political goals.[215]

WikiLeaks explained its actions in a 2017 statement to Foreign Policy: "WikiLeaks schedules publications to maximize readership and reader engagement. During distracting media events such as the Olympics or a high profile election, unrelated publications are sometimes delayed until the distraction passes but never are rejected for this reason."[212] On 7 October 2016, an hour after the media had begun to dedicate wall-to-wall coverage of the revelation that Trump had bragged on video about sexually harassing women, WikiLeaks began to release emails hacked from the personal account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.[216][217] Podesta suggested that the emails were timed to deflect attention from the Trump tapes.[217]

Correspondence between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr.[edit]

In November 2017, it was revealed that the WikiLeaks Twitter account corresponded with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential election.[211] The correspondence shows how WikiLeaks actively solicited the co-operation of Trump Jr., a campaign surrogate and advisor in the campaign of his father. WikiLeaks urged the Trump campaign to reject the results of the 2016 presidential election at a time when it looked as if the Trump campaign would lose.[211] WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to share a claim by Assange that Hillary Clinton had wanted to attack him with drones.[211] WikiLeaks also shared a link to a site that would help people to search through WikiLeaks documents.[211] Trump Jr. shared both. After the election, WikiLeaks also requested that the president-elect push Australia to appoint Assange as ambassador to the US. Trump Jr. provided this correspondence to congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.[211]

Allegations of association with Russian government[edit]

According to the Associated Press, leaked documents from WikiLeaks include an unsigned letter from Julian Assange authorising Israel Shamir to seek a Russian visa on his behalf in 2010. WikiLeaks said Assange never applied for the visa or wrote the letter.[218]

In 2012, as WikiLeaks was under a financial blockade, Assange began to host World Tomorrow, a television show that was distributed by Journeyman Pictures and aired on RT.[219][220]

In 2013, the Russian national newspaper Izvestia reported that Russian intelligence officers had coordinated with WikiLeaks to get Edward Snowden to Russia.[221][222][223]

In April 2016, WikiLeaks tweeted criticism of the Panama Papers, which had among other things revealed Russian businesses and individuals linked with offshore ties. Assange said that journalists had "cherry-picked" documents to maximise "Putin bashing, North Korea bashing, sanctions bashing, etc." while avoiding mention of Western figures.[212] The WikiLeaks Twitter account tweeted, "#PanamaPapers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID and [George] Soros".[224] Putin later dismissed the Panama Papers by citing WikiLeaks: "WikiLeaks has showed us that official people and official organs of the U.S. are behind this."[224] According to The New York Times "there is no evidence suggesting that the United States government had a role in releasing the Panama Papers".[225]

In August 2016, after WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails, DNC officials and a number of cybersecurity experts and cybersecurity firms claimed that Russian intelligence had hacked the e-mails and leaked them to WikiLeaks.[226][227] Assange said that Russia was not the source of the documents and that the Clinton campaign was stoking "a neo-McCarthy hysteria".[228] In October 2016, the US intelligence community said that it was "confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations".[229] The US intelligence agencies said that the hacks were consistent with the methods of Russian-directed efforts, and that people high up within the Kremlin were likely involved.[229] On 14 October 2016, CNN stated that "there is mounting evidence that the Russian government is supplying WikiLeaks with hacked emails pertaining to the U.S. presidential election."[230] WikiLeaks said it had no connection with Russia.[230] President Putin stated that there was no Russian involvement in the election.[231][232] In August 2016, a New York Times story asked whether WikiLeaks had "become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies". It wrote that US officials believed it was unlikely there were direct ties between Wikileaks and Russian intelligence agencies.[219]

In September 2016, the Daily Dot wrote that according to leaked court documents and a chatlog, a WikiLeaks release excluded evidence of a €2 billion transaction between the Syrian government and a government-owned Russian bank.[233] Responding to the Daily Dot, WikiLeaks said that all the Syria files they had obtained had been published. Their spokesperson also stated, in reference to the Daily Dot's reporting of the story: "Go right ahead, but you can be sure we will return the favour one day."[233][234]

A report by the Central Intelligence Agency shared with senators in 2016 concluded that Russia intelligence operatives provided materials to WikiLeaks in an effort to help Donald Trump's election bid.[235][236] WikiLeaks has frequently been criticised[by whom?] for its alleged absence of whistleblowing on or criticism of Russia.[237][failed verification]

In March 2017, The Moscow Times wrote that a former WikiLeaks collaborator said that "in recent years, WikiLeaks and the Russian state have effectively joined forces." The article reported that, since submissions to the Wikileaks portal are anonymous and encrypted, it was very difficult for Wikileaks to trace their source. Mark Galeotti, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and an expert on the Russian security services, said he had suspicions "that things are sometimes fed in, and [WikiLeaks does] know where they came from." Galeotti said Assange would have to be "extraordinarily stupid and naive" not to conclude the DNC leaks came from Russia.[238] According to the Mueller indictment, WikiLeaks knew the source was the Russian Guccifer 2.0 persona.[239]

In April 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated: "It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia." Pompeo said that the US Intelligence Community had concluded that Russia's "primary propaganda outlet," RT had "actively collaborated" with WikiLeaks.[240]

In August 2017, Foreign Policy wrote that WikiLeaks had in the summer of 2016 turned down a large cache of documents containing information damaging to the Russian government.[212][241] WikiLeaks stated that, "As far as we recall these are already public ... WikiLeaks rejects all information that it cannot verify.[212] WikiLeaks rejects submissions that have already been published elsewhere".[212] News outlets had reported on contents of the leaks in 2014, amounting to less than half of the data that was allegedly made available to WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016.[212]

In September 2018, The Guardian reported that Russian diplomats had secret talks with people close to Julian Assange in 2017 with plans to help him flee the U.K. Several possible destinations were suggested, including Russia. The Russian embassy denied the report.[242] It was also reported that Ecuador attempted to give Assange a diplomatic posting in Russia, but Britain refused to give him diplomatic immunity to leave the embassy.[243]

Allegations of anti-semitism[edit]

WikiLeaks has been accused of anti-semitism both in its Twitter activity and hiring decisions.[244][245][246][247] According to Ian Hislop, Assange claimed that a "Jewish conspiracy" was attempting to discredit the organisation. Assange denied making this remark, stating "'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting."[244][248]

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January 2015, the WikiLeaks Twitter account wrote that "the Jewish pro-censorship lobby legitimized attacks", referring to the trial of Maurice Sinet.[246] In July 2016, the same account suggested that triple parentheses, or (((echoes))) – a tool used by neo-Nazis to identify Jews on Twitter, appropriated by several Jews online out of solidarity – had been used as a way for "establishment climbers" to identify one another.[245][247] In leaked internal conversations, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, thought[by whom?] to be controlled by Assange at the time, commented on Associated Press reporter Raphael Satter who had written an article critical of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks tweeted that "[Satter]'s always ben(sic) a rat. But he's jewish and engaged with the ((()))) issue".[210]

Exaggerated and misleading descriptions of the contents of leaks[edit]

WikiLeaks has been criticised for making misleading claims about the contents of its leaks.[249][250] Media outlets have also been criticised for uncritically repeating WikiLeaks' misleading claims about its leaks.[249] According to University of North Carolina Professor Zeynep Tufekci, this is part of a pattern of behaviour.[249] According to Tufekci, there are three steps to WikiLeaks' "disinformation campaigns": "The first step is to dump many documents at once — rather than allowing journalists to scrutinise them and absorb their significance before publication. The second step is to sensationalise the material with misleading news releases and tweets. The third step is to sit back and watch as the news media unwittingly promotes the WikiLeaks agenda under the auspices of independent reporting."[249]

Most experts and commentators agree that Phineas Fisher was behind the AKP email leak.[251][252][253] Fisher said WikiLeaks had told her that the emails were "all spam and crap" but published them anyway despite being asked not to.[254]

Buying and selling leaks[edit]

In 2008, WikiLeaks attempted to auction off the emails of an aide to Hugo Chavez,[255] drawing criticism.[256][257] University of Minnesota media ethics professor Jane Kirtley asked, "Ethically speaking, why don't they just publish it?"[256] WikiLeaks later posted the emails on their website.[258]

In 2015, WikiLeaks began issuing "bounties" of up to $100,000 for leaks.[259] WikiLeaks has issued crowd-sourced rewards for the TTIP chapters, the TPP[259] and information on the Kunduz Massacre.[260][261] WikiLeaks has issued other bounties for leaks on Troika Crisis Planning,[262] LabourLeaks,[263] Trump-Comey tapes,[264] evidence of Obama administration officials destroying information,[265] 2016 U.S. Presidential election-related information,[266] information to get a reporter at The Intercept fired over the Reality Winner case,[267] the U.S. Senate torture report,[268] and documents and Sweden's vote on placing Saudi Arabia on the UN Women's Rights Commission.[269] WikiLeaks had defended the practice with their vetting record, saying "police rewards produce results. So do journalistic rewards."[261]

In April 2018, WikiLeaks offered a $100,000 reward for confidential information about "the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria."[270] In October, November and December 2019, WikiLeaks published the OPCW Douma Docs "regarding the investigating into the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria."[271] In a November 2020 interview with BBC, WikiLeaks' alleged source declined to say if he took money from the organisation.[272][273]

Inadequate curation and violations of personal privacy[edit]

When asked to join their initial advisory board, Steven Aftergood declined and told TIME that "they have a very idealistic view of the nature of leaking and its impact. They seem to think that most leakers are crusading do-gooders who are single-handedly battling one evil empire or another."[274] Citing the leaking of the sorority rituals of Alpha Sigma Tau, Steven Aftergood has opined that WikiLeaks "does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals." Aftergood went on to state that WikiLeaks engages in unrestrained disclosure of non-governmental secrets without compelling public policy reasons and that many anti-corruption activists were opposed to the site's activities.[275]

In 2010, Amnesty International joined several other human rights groups in strongly requesting that WikiLeaks redact the names of Afghan civilians working as U.S. military informants from files they had released, in order to protect them from repercussions. Julian Assange responded by offering Amnesty International the opportunity to assist in the tedious document vetting process. When Amnesty International appeared to express reservations in accepting the offer, Assange stated that he had "no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses." Other groups that joined Amnesty International in criticising WikiLeaks subsequently noted that, despite their displeasure over the issue of civilian name redaction, they generally appreciated WikiLeaks' work.[276]

In an August 2010 open letter, the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders praised WikiLeaks' past usefulness in exposing "serious violations of human rights and civil liberties" but criticised the group over a perceived absence of editorial control, stating "indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that WikiLeaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing."[277] The group subsequently clarified their statement as a criticism of WikiLeaks release procedure and not the organisation itself, stating "we reaffirm our support for Wikileaks, its work and its founding principles."[278]

On 30 November 2010, former Canadian government adviser Tom Flanagan, while appearing on the CBC television program "Power & Politics", called for Julian Assange to be killed. "I think Assange should be assassinated," Flanagan stated, before noting to host Evan Solomon, "I'm feeling pretty manly today." Flanagan subsequently retracted his call for the death of Assange while reiterating his opposition to WikiLeaks.[279] Dimitri Soudas, spokesman to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, decried Flanagan's comments and said the former Tory strategist's remarks are "simply not acceptable." Ralph Goodale, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, called Flanagan's remarks "clearly contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."[280]

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