According to conventional wisdom, WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by an Australian named Julian Assange. They like most hacktivist were rebellious but right of mind, they believed in informing the public and detested governmental secrecy.
When it came to defining and categorising WikiLeaks, Ludlow (2010, p.25) explained that “WikiLeaks is not the one-off creation of a solitary genius; it is the product of decades of collaborative work by people engaged in applying computer hacking to political causes, in particular, to the principle that information-hoarding is evil — and, as Stewart Brand said in 1984, “Information wants to be free.”’ So that is exactly what they did, they freed information.
Since it was founded in 2006, the nonprofit media organisation had published countless exposés and other critical documents… including proof of high-level government deceit and duplicity, confidential records of Iceland's top bank detailing their role in the countries financial collapse, even details on the super-secretive Church of Scientology operations and the names of a myriad of the far-right British National members (Sifry, 2011). This was merely a tapered list of the hacks WikiLeaks were responsible for, being responsible for many more and they were never short in ambition.
Coleman (2014, p.82 ) delineated how “WikiLeaks had dramatically switched public relations strategies”, possibly down to flailing relevance. Where Norman (2010) demonstrated how “WikiLeaks revelations from 2010 included simple gossip about world leaders: Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin is playing Batman to President Dmitri Medvedev’s Robin; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is crazy and was once slapped by a Revolutionary Guard chief for being so; Libya’s Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has a hankering for his voluptuous blond Ukrainian nurse etc…”. So as a result, it seemed the revelations became less shocking, less dramatic and less perilous — more veering towards derisiveness than anything else.
But Norman (2010) however, still exemplified some of their exuberance by detailing how “WikiLeaks released a secret State Department cable that provided a list of sites around the world vital to U.S. national security, from mines in Africa to labs in Europe…and after a U.S. Army helicopter allegedly gunned down two journalists in Baghdad in 2007. WikiLeaks posted a 40-minute video on its website in April, showing the attack in gruesome detail, along with an audio recording of the pilots during the attack’. So as their relevance and power so to speak, began to wane — their desire for impactful and informational controversy didn't. I believe that these kind of actions and various forms of hacktivism, no matter how divergent or outlandish, sit on the right side of the moral spectrum in my eyes. Authors like Ludrow and Coleman help to summarise all of their actions whilst giving us that undertone of acceptance of the fact that there is more truth to conspiracy than we would even want to believe; and that, we as regular citizens are more in the dark, than we’d even care to imagine. In a way, these groups open our eyes to our societal fears, that corrupted governmental secrecy is a very real thing and there is much we don’t know about what goes on in the very world we live in. Coleman (2014, p.81) even titled the subheadings of one of her chapters as “WikiLeaks the gift that keeps on giving” and Ludrow (2010, p.26) in my opinion sums up the works of these digital activists perfectly, that “it has long been an ethical principle of hackers that ideas and information are not to be hoarded but are to be shared”, and that is exactly what they did.
Coleman, G. (2014). Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: The many faces of Anonymous. Verso books.
CNN (2020). Julian Assange. [image] Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/03/world/wikileaks-fast-facts/index.html [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
Ludlow, P. (2010). Wikileaks and hacktivist culture. The Nation, 4, 25–26.
Norman, J. (2020). How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010. [online] cbsnews.com. Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-wikileaks-enlightened-us-in-2010/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2020].
RT (2020). WikiLeaks. [image] Available at: https://cdni.rt.com/files/2016.10/article/57f28ba3c461888f378b4604.jpg [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
Sifry, M. L. (2011). WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency. OR Books.