At its heart, WikiLeaks is an innovative endeavor. Started as a project of Sunshine Press, it was an invention of a new form of journalism built on the platform of the internet. On its website’s “About” page, WikiLeaks described how it started with an online dialogue between activists around the world, who shared their aspiration to eliminate injustice and human suffering caused by the abuses of power of corporations and governments, especially oppressive regimes.
Inspired by this pioneer of private and secure online communication, the founding members of WikiLeaks sought for a way to deploy information technologies to create a robust system of publishing that protects the anonymity of sources and enables transparency of the powerful. This new journalistic organization aimed to make “document leaking technology” available at a global scale in order to better bring accountability to governments and other institutions.
What is this new Crypto War — now being waged against the whistleblowing site — all about? This battle is not just about Assange as an individual. While mainstream media fixates on Assange and his character, WikiLeaks is not driven solely by one charismatic man. Behind the organization, there are thousands of ordinary people worldwide who are dedicated to the principle of freedom of speech.
At the end of 2010, when WikiLeaks began publishing troves of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, its website came under heavy pressure by the U.S. government and its allies. Insurgency swiftly emerged from deep inside the web to help WikiLeaks counteract distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. By keeping multiple copies of its website, and setting up mirror sites, anonymous networks allowed information to continue to flow.
In his 2006 essay “Conspiracy as Governance”, a kind of manifesto from which WikiLeaks was conceived, Assange analyzed the structure of power and means to shift the balance of power between the individual and the state. By using cryptography as a “non-violent democratic weapon that gives claws to the weak,” Assange found a way to provide information to the public, to hold the powerful accountable, and to help ordinary people empower themselves with knowledge.