As the political impact of sensitive diplomatic information continues to reverberate, a set of WikiLeaks spin-offs hopes to capitalise on the successes of the whistleblowing site and its Australian chief, Julian Assange.
The US and other authorities have cracked down on WikiLeaks and Assange since the site started publishing thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables that have embarrassed both the US and other parties around the world.
Assange, who founded WikiLeaks in 2006, seems to have inspired a flood of new gossip-mongering sites. If just a few of the copycat organisations manage to provide useful information to the public, Assange’s positive contribution to global civil society might be more widely acknowledged.
In an interview with Forbes magazine the embattled activist said, “It’s not something that’s easy to do right” but then added, “it’s helpful for us to have more people in this industry”.
Here are five notable new imitations of the WikiLeaks model:
The former deputy to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has vowed to launch a rival site soon that he says will be more transparent than the original.
Run by Assange’s former number two at WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the site currently has no content except for a logo and the message “Coming soon!”
Domscheit-Berg has declined to go into the details of his dispute with WikiLeaks but suggested the whistleblower site strayed from its mission.
“In these last months, the organisation has not been open any more. It lost its open-source promise,” he told the OWNI technology website, adding that OpenLeaks plans to provide a democratically-governed means for leaked information to be published, without itself being a publisher.
Domscheit-Berg, who was previously involved with German hacker group the Chaos Computer Club, said OpenLeaks, already on Twitter, would begin trials in early 2011 and feed documents to bigger media later on.
This EU-focused WikiLeaks imitator – with no connection to the original organisation – already has a website and a Twitter page.
The collaborative of media professionals and activists says it seeks to “pull the shady inner workings of the EU system out into the public domain”.
“This is about getting important information out there, not about Brusselsleaks [or any other ‘leaks’ for that matter],” the fledgling website said.
“That’s why today we tweeted that we have decided to ‘go dark’ for a few weeks.”
Established to “do to trade and commerce what WikiLeaks has done to politics”, TradeLeaks said its site had more than 60,000 pageviews within hours of launching.
Centred on business leaks, the site is concentrating on improving its “TradeLeaks relevance score”, which gauges the importance of revealed documents.
The organisation was founded by Ruslan Kogan, of the Australian budget consumer electronics retailer, Kogan Technologies.
TradeLeaks relies on the “Trader Principle”, which states “individuals and businesses should attain values from others through mutually beneficial and fully consensual trade, rather than force, fraud or deception”.
The site will allow any source to post material directly – and anonymously – on its site. Rather than scrutinising data itself, TradeLeaks will rely on users to evaluate independently the merits of information.
But some TradeLeaks users have already alleged that the site is a publicity-grabbing “waste of time”.
Set up by Atanas Chobanov, a Bulgarian exapatriate in Paris, Balkan Leaks aims to follow in WikiLeaks’ footsteps by promoting transparency and fighting corruption in the Balkan region.
Users can submit documents securely on the site through an anonymous, encrypted file uploader. Site administrators have said they would review and publish files only after verifying the contents.
The organisation’s motto is “The Balkans are not keeping secrets anymore”.
The website summarises its purpose: “There are plenty of people out there that want to change the Balkans for good and are ready to take on the challenge. We’re offering them a hand.”
Launched as Indonesia’s answer to WikiLeaks, the new Indonesian-language site has already posted controversial documents detailing autopsy reports from an infamous national tragedy in 1965, according to an article by The Jakarta Post.
Indoleaks has also posted sensitive declassified documents describing a 1975 discussion about East Timor between former Indonesian president Suharto and former US president Gerald Ford.
Suharto is quoting as saying, “Indonesia doesn’t want to insert itself into Timor self-determination, but the problem is how to manage the self-determination process”.
But Indoleaks, according to the Jakarta Globe newspaper, has reportedly been having technical problems making files publicly available.
The paper also said “the [Indonesian] government claimed not to be concerned by the website”.