Mere months ago, Julian Assange’s anonymous whistleblowing site was touted as a journalism “game-changer” that would do to news distribution what Napster did for music distribution: disrupt and democratize it.
What would this new era of transparency look like? Every online news story would include a “disclose” button to allow readers to safely dump additional info. Leaks would go local—in addition to big targets like the U.S. government or multinational banks, public school principals and gum factory foremen would also be vulnerable to being exposed. Media organizations would outsource news gathering to the public, and turn their internal efforts towards verifying, analyzing, editing and packaging compelling stories. And we wouldn’t be stuck with a douchey ideologue like Assange, either: new sites like OpenLeaks, LocalLeaks, EuroLeaks, IsraeliLeaks and HackerLeaks were popping up to poke holes in secrecy and conspiracy wherever they are found.
But let’s say that right now you had some dynamite data to dump. Who would you leak it to?
Wikileaks will accept your donation to Julian Assange’s legal defense fund, but it won’t accept your info leak. The site is currently not taking new submissions “due to re-engineering improvements“. OpenLeaks, a spinoff project by former members of Wikileaks, isn’t functional, and there’s no word on when it will be. Same with LocalLeaks, a project from the friendly folks of Anonymous. The rest have yet to gain much traction, and as for legacy media finally smartening up and offering their own secure data drops, the one major newspaper to try was practically laughed off the Internet.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Safehouse site was immediately ripped apart by security experts and transparency advocates alike. At launch, it was insecure both by technical bug (your I.P. address might be sniffed as you uploaded) and by deliberate design (the site’s terms and conditions warns leakers that the WSJ reserves the right to snitch them out to the cops whenever they feel like it). In other words, you’d have to be nuts to trust Safehouse to keep you safe, and unsurprisingly, nobody with anything good has. There has yet to be a notable revelation to come from the effort.
Perhaps I’m speaking too soon—it has been only nine months or so since Wikileaks’ notorious diplomatic cable-dumps. Or perhaps I’m simply ignorant of some truly consequential leak sites out there (it would help if I read Russian). If so, I’d love to know about them.
But if I’m right, and it’s true that in the wake of Wikileaks, nobody else has stepped up to take their place—well why on Earth not?