A nonprofit whistleblower website launched in 2006, Wikileaks has highlighted important issues about government transparency the free expression rights of online publishers and the unimpeded flow of information on the Internet. While there is heated controversy about its tactics and publication choices, EFF supports the fundamental right of Wikileaks and similar websites to publish truthful political content — and the fundamental right of users to read that content.
EFF Defends Against Attack on Wikileaks.org Domain
EFF intervened to protect Wikileaks' domain name from a legal attack in 2008 when Swiss bank Julius Baer filed suit against both the whistleblowing website and its domain name registrar Dynadot. At the time, the court issued a permanent injunction against the wikileaks.org domain name, causing the site to be unavailable through the main URL. EFF and the ACLU filed a motion to intervene and many media and other free speech organizations joined. The judge dissolved his previous orders allowing the wikileaks.org domain name to go back up.
Wikileaks Continues Publishing
Wikileaks received a great deal of media attention in 2010 when it published a wealth of confidential documents about the United States government. The publications included:
- "Collateral Murder" — a video depicting a United State Apache helicopter firing on civilians in New Baghdad in 2007, killing several people including two employees of the news agency Reuters.
- The Afghan War Diary — over 91,000 field reports from the war in Afghanistan ranging from 2004 to 2010.
- The Iraq War Logs — 391,832 field reports from the war and occupation in Iraq.
- United States Embassy Cables — also known as Cablegate — a collection of cables exchanged between the State Department and US diplomatic embassies worldwide. Over 250,000 cables are slated to be release in small batches over several months.
Cablegate Shows Online Intermediaries as the Weakest Link
In the wake of the early waves of cables being published online in late 2010, numerous online intermediaries acted in ways that highlighted the fragility of online free speech. Payment providers, cloud service hosting providers, and other intermediaries shut off services to Wikileaks sometimes in response to unofficial government pressure. This raised serious concerns about the power of online intermediaries that worked to shut down free speech without Wikileaks having been formally charged with any crime in relation to the leaks.
In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign against Internet censorship and sent an Open Letter to Lawmakers reminding them to safeguard free expression when considering the debate over Wikileaks. EFF also created guidelines for constructive direct action against censorship.
The Government Investigates Wikileaks
In January 2011, it came to light that the United States government had sought certain account information from Twitter about particular users in connection with a Wikileaks-related investigation. EFF and the ACLU announced they would represent Icelandic Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir in connection to a court order for information from her Twitter account.
Photo credit: Graphic Tribe via Wikimedia Commons