This week-long serialisation forms the vast part of my undergraduate dissertation: "An empirical analysis of Wikileaks, pre- and post- the 2010 diplomatic cables release". Media organisation or terrorist group; revolutionaries or journalistic evolutionists? This post will roll back to pre-2010 and before the cables release, to discover the roots of the whistleblowing organisation.
The conception of Wikileaks is shrouded mostly in secrecy. The whistleblowing organisation appears to have been smelted from the fictional depths of a James Bond movie.
The site was reported to be set up by Chinese dissidents, in protest of the sentencing of Shi Tao, a journalist sentenced to 10 years in prison, for releasing an email about the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Other founders of the Wikileaks movement were mathematicians, cryptographers, as well as a former U.S. intelligence analyst, and start-up technologists ranging from the United States, Australia, Europe, and South Africa -- though members remain anonymous.
In February 2008, a U.S. federal judge ordered the Wikileaks domain ("www.wikileaks.org") to be shut down by their domain registrar, Dynadot. This all resulted from a disgruntled ex-employee of the Julius Baer Trust and Bank submitting documents to the site purportedly showing "offshore tax evasion and money laundering" by clients of the bank.
This was the first legal challenge that Wikileaks had to navigate, with their domain name and 'corporate' web identity was disallowed by the court.
Yet within a month of this ruling, the same judge reversed the injunction citing ‘First Amendment [of the U.S. constitution] issues' which would restrict constitutionally bound freedom of speechand the presses (though arguably Wikileaks acting as journalists is subjective by individual U.S. state law).
Late 2008 through to 2009 was a difficult year in that sometimes it was even more controversial for Wikileaks. Focusing on mostly public sector organisations, there were political leaks in the United States, the release of the Internet censorship lists of Australia, Denmark and Thailand and the 'Climategate' emails leak.
This was highly reported in the press, amidst the smaller leaks throughout the year.
An email was sent by a senior Wikileaks staff member to donors without blind carbon-copying email addresses, leaving one recipient to submit it to the site, proving Wikileaks does not censor nor breach impartiality when dealing with leaks from whistleblowers.
By the end of 2009 and after a series of game-changing leaks were released, Wikileaks had been banned from three countries. Seemingly having a change of tune, describing the sites reasons for operating is "solely in the name of historical record".
With this, Assange had also claimed he was part of an 'activist organisation' in the Wired interview, straying away from the 'media organisation' it had intended to be perceived as.
The next post will examine how Wikileaks not only operates but crucially how it functions amid the vast press preoccupation with its values of secrecy. Read more.