Are there any scientific papers on WikiLeaks

Wikileaks: Power and Responsibility

Wikileaks defines itself as an "open source news service". The term "Wiki" is based on the interactive encyclopedia Wikipedia; the term “leak” refers to a leak in English. The name says it all: anyone can hand over secret information to Wikileaks. The organization guarantees its informants complete anonymity. Thanks to extensive encryption precautions, not even those responsible for the project find out their identity.

The organization emphasizes that it publishes all documents that are leaked to it and that it considers to be authentic; The aim is to expose "unethical behavior in governments and companies". The activists dispute a political agenda that goes beyond this: They like to describe themselves to the media as “anarchists” who want to stand up above all for the socially oppressed - without allowing themselves to be constrained by what they say are “already outdated” right and left.[1]

Despite this emphasis on political neutrality, assessments of Wikileaks' goals diverge widely. Proponents see the organization as a kind of Robin Hood of the information age. In the eyes of the opponents, on the other hand, Wikileaks is an unpredictable and uncontrollable actor whose publications can cause stock prices to plummet or topple governments. In fact, Wikileaks has quickly drawn the wrath of powerful enemies with its publications, including the Scientology sect, Swiss private banks, African dictators and, last but not least, the Pentagon.

Wikileaks achieves its clout with comparatively few resources: just five activists take care of the organization; Depending on their needs, they receive support from a pool of around 800 volunteers around the world.[2] With the help of this centralized organizational structure, Wikileaks has already published 1.2 million documents since it was founded in 2006.

Julian Assange, the head of the organization, claims the status of "scientific journalism" for the publication policy of Wikileaks: Wikileaks provides the public - in contrast to classic daily journalism - with verified and therefore credible sources, based on which, for example, the truthfulness of news reports or the Transparency of government action can be checked.[3]

The committed commitment to greater transparency, however, is in stark contrast to Wikileaks' own public relations work: The organization does not divulge much more than this vague information through its internal structures. This silence also serves to protect one's own project. At the same time, however, it is not understandable for outsiders how independently the activists actually decide on the publication and time of secret documents submitted.

This puts Wikileaks in conflict with its own standards of value. Because the demand for total transparency is difficult to reconcile with the complete anonymity of those who want to bring it about.[4] Instead, the activists expect the citizens to blindly trust the alleged guardians of the truth, even if they are not themselves subject to public scrutiny.

In addition, the lack of transparency could ironically turn against Wikileaks themselves. Because precisely because the activists always emphasize that they are not pursuing a decidedly political agenda, they must be asked all the more who will benefit from their publications. Sooner or later, the internal “peer review” procedure will very likely fail due to the strict protection of sources of a forgery. Above all, Wikileaks is not immune from becoming a pawn in political disputes.

In November last year, Wikileaks was specifically leaked to the email communications of the controversial climate researchers at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia - apparently with the intention of creating suspicion in public that temperature measurements to detect climate change had been manipulated.[5] When asked about this possibility, the activists always refer to the top priority of remaining credible and unfiltered to publish all leaked content that is found to be authentic.

"Wikileaks' pursuit of unconditional truth ignores the consequences of its own actions"

Even if the pursuit of unconditional truth seems logical at first glance, it at the same time relentlessly ignores the consequences of one's own actions. This is evident not least from the ethical criteria of journalism with which Wikileaks likes to adorn itself. Because the journalist is usually aware of the origin of the information leaked to him. Therefore, he can and should not only draw conclusions about the motives of the informant, but at the same time weigh up momentous publication decisions in order to be able to answer them to third parties in the end.

The Wikileaks activists evade such responsibility - with fatal consequences, especially if the publications cause “collateral damage”. And these are sometimes even consciously accepted: Human rights organizations have criticized Wikileaks for not having completely erased the names of Afghan civilians in the recently published war reports. Amnesty International therefore fears that this could lead to retaliation by the Taliban.[6]

Indeed, Wikileaks frankly admitted that it had deliberately published the identity of "guilty parties". For example, according to Julian Assange, the name of the head of an Afghan radio station was not made illegible because the US Army bribed him to send pro-American reports.[7]

Apparently Assange makes no distinction between the publication of secret economic agreements within a constitutional state (such as the Toll Collect contracts) and the dissemination of intelligence information in a war zone that could fuel the conflict there. What is decisive, however, is that Wikileaks becomes the judge of the guilt of individuals - and in this way becomes a combatant itself when those who are involuntarily dragged into the light are pilloried in front of everyone and thus - in the worst case - even with them in the end pay their lives.

"The philosophy of transparency becomes profitable business"

But that's not all: From now on, the “leaks” should also be marketed profitably.

According to its own information, Wikileaks has collected more than one million US dollars in donations since the beginning of this year - and thus far more than the required 200,000 euros, which cover the minimum operating costs for a year.[8] Wikileaks does not have to worry about financial issues at the moment. However, the organization also does not disclose the sources from which the financial donations come.[9]

What is certain, however, is that the high income from donations was not least achieved with the help of spectacular publications. This attracted a lot of attention in April of the year. released 18-minute video "Collateral Murder". It shows eleven civilians, including two journalists from the Reuters news agency, being shot at and killed by a US Army helicopter. The sensational publication also paid off financially for Wikileaks: Within a few days, more than 150,000 euros flowed into the organization's donation account.

With successes of this kind, however, Wikileaks threatens more and more to be drawn into an “attention economy” that is at the expense of postulated neutrality. For example, when the video was published, Julian Assange made a conscious decision to use the sensational title “Collateral Murder”, which is based on the euphemistic term “collateral damage”. The title “Permission to Engage”, on the other hand, was discarded in order to achieve a stronger media impact.[10]

This reasoning is more reminiscent of the promotional methods of the rainbow press than of scientific journalism. Regardless of this, Assange euphorically predicts a “new financing model for journalism” - and is already thinking about selling sensitive information in advance exclusively to the highest-bidding media partners.

But if the combatants are to be sold as a sensational report to the highest bidder in the future, the philosophy of transparency threatens to be subordinated to business goals - and thus to reduce Wikileaks lofty goals to absurdity.

[2] See “die tageszeitung” (taz), July 27, 2010.

[3] See “Der Spiegel”, 30/2010.

[5] See taz, November 23, 2009.

[6] See "Huffington Post", August 10, 2010.

[7] See "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ), August 26, 2010.

[8] See "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", June 8, 2010.

[9] See "Wall Street Journal", August 23, 2010. However, Wikileaks has already announced more transparent bookkeeping for the future, see SZ, 6/8/2010.

[10] See "The New Yorker", June 7, 2010.