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Wikileaks was founded in 2006 with a self-proclaimed mission to oppose what its founder, Julian Assange, considered to be “secrecy-based, authoritarian” governments and entities. To combat their censorship of information in the public’s interest and to expose their lies and corruption. If Wikileaks made bumper stickers to promote themselves, they might’ve printed them up with something like “Wikileaks: liberating information and fighting the powerful.”
In the past few years, however, Wikileaks has itself become powerful and its mission and acts have come under increased scrutiny and criticism. Criticism ranging from its careless outing of dissidents to its alleged connection to Russian state-sponsored hackers and the publishing of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign during the U.S. presidential election.
And now, in keeping with the behavior of the powerful entities upon which it has declared war, Wikileaks has decided to protect itself by going after those who would seek to expose its own secrets.
Early this afternoon a Twitter account affiliated with Wikileaks tweeted the following:
“Verified” accounts are accounts of people or businesses that Twitter determines to be of public interest. Celebrities, brands, athletes, politicians, media outlets and individual members of the media. People or entities for whom others may try to create imposter accounts and spread misinformation. It’s not a super high bar — I’m a lowly sportswriter and I’m verified — but it’s a handy means of knowing that someone is who they say they are.
The Wikileaks Task Force account, created just this past October, is not interested in celebrities and brands, however. Its mission, as stated in its own bio, is to “Correct misinformation about #WikiLeaks,” and “amplify our publications.” Based on its activity — going after reporters who write about Wikileaks —part of its mission seems to be the silencing of those who are critical of Wikileaks. Particularly people in the media. It’s Wikileaks’ spin room and defense force, basically.
In light of this, the tweet reproduced above can only be seen as a threat. A means of putting people in the media on notice that Wikileaks is going to do to them what it has been accused of doing in any number of other situations: violating their personal privacy regardless of whether or not it furthers any public interest in an effort to stifle dissent. To, quite perversely and 100% contrary to its self-proclaimed mission, censor those who attempt to illuminate and critique the powerful. Which in this case is Wikileaks.
Media critique is important. And there may very well be some worthwhile insights to be gained from investigating the connections between media companies and, perhaps, influential members of the media and determining how those connections shape coverage, illuminate or, alternatively, obfuscate.
But that is not what Wikileaks is proposing here. They’ve never “investigated” anything, made any effort to differentiate between relevant and non-relevant information or to protect private and sensitive information. Based on this tweet they want people to know where I and others live. Who we love. How much money we make and, likely, to whom we owe money. They want to expose the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of those who oppose them. To doxx those who they cannot directly control and hope that they shut up and stop criticizing Wikileaks. Or, perhaps, that they stop criticizing Wikileaks’ closest friends.
Nietzsche said, “beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.” Jullian Assange and the people at Wikileaks would be wise to think about that. Nietzsche’s works are in the public domain now. No one needs to hack or illegally download them, so it wouldn’t take much effort at all.