6 December 2010
What's the point of trying to shut down Wikileaks? If this past week has shown anything, it's that cutting off the hydra's head only results in a hundred more growing in its place.
Thousands of people are now mirroring Wikileaks' content, both officially and unofficially. Tens of thousands are downloading and sharing gigabytes of data from Wikileaks. One file - insurance.aes256 - is a "poison pill" that will automatically be decrypted and released on the disappearance or death of its figurehead, Julian Assange. Not even US authorities have been able to crack it.
And Wikileaks has some very high profile support. Switzerland has refused to force the site offline, and at the time of writing it is accessible at http://www.wikileaks.ch and running at a good pace. The UK's Guardian newspaper is giving clear instructions on how to access Wikileaks, linking to mirrors, and explaining how website hosts can help with redirection.
PayPal cut off funding to Wikileaks, but alternatives are springing up, including the Swiss postal service. It's worth noting that while the US could have tracked every PayPal donor to Wikileaks, it's going to find it extremely difficult to monitor a disparate stream of alternative - even underground - payments.
The Swiss Pirate Party is trying to arrange asylum for Assange, and Wikileaks has strong support from many freedom of information organisations.
There's also a huge backlash against the opponents of Wikileaks. There are small but growing calls to boycott PayPal as well as Amazon, which shut down Wikileaks servers. Sentiment is particularly strong in the US, with a populace that is fiercely proud of its constitutional protection of free speech, and frustrated by years of attempted government curbs and heavy-handedness, in the form of the Patriot Act and similar.
Websites such as Reddit - http://www.reddit.com/r/wikileaks - are busy collating news and information about Wikileaks, as well as links to its content. More interestingly, Reddit is increasingly a communications point for internet collective Anonymous/4chan. Anonymous previously carried out successful DDoS attacks on various supporters of censorship and opponents of torrenting, and managed to take Australian government websites offline during the internet filtering row. In recent days it has been issuing calls-to-action in support of Wikileaks.
Opponents are also facing personal investigations and attacks. While alleged sexual assault victims are usually granted anonymity, the names of Julian Assange's two Swedish accusers have been published all over the internet. Potentially damaging details of their political affinities have also been unearthed.
In Greek mythology, when Hercules finally managed to kill the hydra, the goddess Hera put it up into the sky as a constellation, where the entire universe could see it. That's pretty much what is happening to Wikileaks now: persecution is immortalising it, figuratively and literally. Its data is now in so many, often unreachable places that there is no way any national or international authority will be able to track it all down and take it offline.
Wikileaks is here to stay. Transparency is here to stay. Whether it's right or wrong, whether it is helpful or harmful, governments need to adapt. This is the future: this is not a transient security blip. As the Swiss Pirate Party phrases it:
"The activities of the WikiLeaks project pose a challenge for both the ruling system and the defenders of transparency. We are in the middle of a revolution of information."
Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been approved.
Lisa Creffield, Sydney (6 December 2010 4:46PM) wrote:
Thank you all for the comments, I have amended the article to "sexual assault" rather than "rape" since that seems a better fit for the current charges. I've also fixed "decrypted" - thanks for spotting that one!
Shannon, Queensland (6 December 2010 11:33AM) wrote:
Just a quick correction: "automatically be encrypted and released" should probably be "automatically be decrypted and released" - however what is going to automatically happen is the key that will decrypt the archive will be released, people are still going to have to decrypt the file themselves.
Robert Peacock, Kingman, Az (6 December 2010 11:24AM) wrote:
Its very refreshing,as an american, to see the government get a taste of their own medicine. For so long, the gov has had control of everything. Been able to run behind door meetings to decide our future. With nobody able to challenge the monster. they got away with murder. Now, thank you Wikileaks, everybody will know exactly how things are going down in washington, and around the world. America just became greater!!
Mike Clay, Sydney (6 December 2010 11:21AM) wrote:
Fact check: rape allegations against Assange have been withdrawn. Assange has an arrest warrant fro having consensual sex without a condom. You might want to consider updating your article. References: http://slate.me/ggF8VO and http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/wikileaks-sex-scandal-deepens-as-estranged-son-enters-the-fray-20100830-143ao.html
Peter Evans-Greenwood, Melbourne (6 December 2010 11:20AM) wrote:
"Not even US authorities have been able to crack it" <- don't be so sure.
Kit, Sydney (6 December 2010 11:19AM) wrote:
Great work, Lisa. A balanced approach with a refreshing perspective. I thank you for writng a thoughtful and reasonable piece rather than looking for the conflict and disgreement and populist rubbish that is being trotted out elsewhere.