ZDNet UK's reader poll, which began on Tuesday last week, ran for 48 hours in conjunction with similar polls on ZDNet sites worldwide. In total, 11,329 ZDNet readers around the world sent their responses.
In the UK, three quarters of readers said that they approved of Wikileaks publishing sensitive documents, and found the documents useful. Wikileaks is in the process of publishing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables, and in October it released a dossier of documents relating to the Iraq war.
In the US, only half of ZDNet readers agreed with the publication of the documents, while 59 percent found them useful.
ZDNet readers in Europe, China and Australia overwhelmingly supported Wikileaks's publication of the documents. In Germany, 88 percent of readers agreed with publication, while in France the figure was 77 percent. A high percentage of readers found the documents useful in both countries. In China, 73 percent of readers agreed that Wikileaks was right to publish the leaked documents; 84 percent of readers in Australia also agreed.
ZDNet UK readers thought that Wikileaks was motivated both by a desire to inform and by politics. Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden for questioning on sexual molestation charges, has vowed to carry on his work.
In Asia, over 83 percent of ZDNet readers said that Wikileaks wanted to inform, but only 28 percent thought that the organisation was driven by political motives. By contrast, 62 percent of US readers said that Wikileaks had political motivations, which tallied with China, at 61 percent.
UK readers felt that governments should not ban Wikileaks in order to keep sensitive documents secret. However, readers understood that governments may not wish local providers to host Wikileaks.
A slim majority of US readers said that it was not legitimate to ban Wikileaks, but 76 percent said it was understandable for countries not to want to host Wikileaks.
In Germany, by contrast, 79 percent of ZDNet readers did not agree that it was understandable that countries would not want to host the whistleblower site.
At the beginning of December, Amazon stopped hosting Wikileaks on its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). US senator Joe Lieberman said that Amazon had stopped its relationship with Wikileaks after pressure from the US government, a claim that Amazon later denied.
Payments processors also ceased business relationships with Wikileaks. A PayPal executive said in December that PayPal had stopped accepting donations to Wikileaks after pressure from the US government. MasterCard and Visa also stopped processing payments for Wikileaks donations.
Over 70 percent of UK readers thought that if Wikileaks is blocked by one country, an organisation in another country should host the site.
Wikileaks lost its domain name at the beginning of December, after DNS provider EveryDNS.net pulled its DNS services. For a short space of time, Wikileaks websites could only be accessed via numerical IP addresses, until Wikileaks moved its main site to a Swiss host. As a result of Wikileaks's difficulties, hundreds of mirror sites sprang up.
The majority of ZDNet readers around the world consistently said that Wikileaks should remain accessible by being hosted in different countries. ZDNet Germany readers were the most supportive, with 89 percent saying Wikileaks should be accessible online, while 53 percent of ZDNet Japan readers agreed. In the US, 57 percent of readers said that Wikileaks should remain accessible.
Organisations have come under attack from pro-Wikileaks supporters. PayPal, MasterCard and Visa have all had customer-facing sites taken offline by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
Only a minority of readers think that DDoS is a legitimate form of protest. In the UK, 37 percent said that DDoS is legitimate. In France, 45 percent of readers believed it is legitimate to attack sites as part of a protest, while in the US the figure is 30 percent.
According to our poll, most organisations are not planning to rethink their security strategies in the light of the publication of sensitive documents on Wikileaks. The US government has had a major security review since the publication of documents this summer, and the UK government is also checking its security procedures.
In the ZDNet UK poll, only a minority of respondents — just under 19 percent — say their organisations are rethinking security in the light of Wikileaks' activities. In the US, the figure is 40 percent, while in Japan a quarter of respondents said their organisations were concerned about information security in the light of the leaks.