All across Europe, from Brussels to the Balkans, a new generation of WikiLeaks-style websites is sprouting.
Like their forerunner, the fledgling whistle-blowing sites are a chaotic mixture of complex systems engineering, earnest campaigning, muckraking and self-promotion.
And though their goals are varied, the activists behind the sites told Reuters that they share one major concern: they all vow not to repeat mistakes they believe were made by Julian Assange, the controversial WikiLeaks creator.
The proliferation of websites to encourage, facilitate and shelter leakers is so anarchic that two aspiring anti-corporate leak sites are both claiming rights to the rubric “GreenLeaks” and muttering about legal consequences if the other side doesn’t back down.
The most ambitious and potentially far-reaching WikiLeaks spinoff to surface this week is Domscheit-Berg’s OpenLeaks, which its founder describes as a mechanism both for putting together leakers with knowledgeable recipients and for linking leak-consuming organizations to each other.
The burgeoning Wikiworld has been eagerly anticipating Domscheit-Berg’s next project since his falling out with Assange last year. The two became estranged following an e-mail exchange in which Assange summarily suspended Domscheit-Berg as WikiLeaks co-spokesman for allegedly leaking information to the media about growing concern among other WikiLeaks activists about Assange’s private life.
Domscheit-Berg subsequently quit WikiLeaks, denouncing Assange for “acting like an emperor or slave trader.” He took with him other more shadowy figures who had been important collaborators with Assange in creating key elements of WikiLeaks’ leak-handling systems architecture.
One of the defectors was a programer known to most insiders simply as “The Architect.” Described by colleagues as at least as brilliant at programing as Assange, The Architect was the principal designer of the systems WikiLeaks used to produce Assange’s greatest public triumphs last year, the distribution of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government reports.
In a conversation with Reuters on Thursday from Davos, Switzerland, where he appeared on a World Economic Forum panel devoted to “Confidentiality and Transparency,” Domscheit-Berg said his WikiLeaks experience had convinced him of the wrongness of Assange’s view that the website should publish raw information and let others sort through it. (Assange’s approach subsequently appears to have matured, as demonstrated by WikiLeaks current snail-like release of its cache of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.)
Domscheit-Berg said WikiLeaks taught him that huge efforts have to be made to authenticate, analyze, filter and if necessary redact leaked secret documents before making them public. He said that WikiLeaks also demonstrated that a top-down group like WikiLeaks, which Assange by his own account rules like something of an absolute monarch, might not be the best model to undertake painstaking pre-publication reviews of complex, and potentially damaging, data.
He said his concept is to create a new network through which leakers of any kind — government, corporate, environmental, whatever — could make confidential submissions to groups that could make use of them. OpenLeaks itself would not evaluate, let alone publicly release, the information. Instead it would convey it from leaker to leakee.