As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stews in a British jail, with a U.S. indictment reportedly imminent on top of the alleged Swedish sex crimes he was arrested for in the first place, some of his former staffers are already preparing to launch a competing site for whistleblowers called OpenLeaks. The new site will be headed up by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s former right-hand man who left last September, after bristling under Assange’s autocratic ways.
OpenLeaks will be structured a bit differently than WikiLeaks. It will be designed to accept leaks in a secure and anonymous manner, but won’t publish them itself. Instead, OpenLeaks will work with other publishers, including newspapers and websites around the world, which will asses the newsworthiness of any leaked documents, and edit and redact them as appropriate before releasing them.
In this way, OpenLeaks hopes to address one of the biggest early criticisms against WikiLeaks: that it publishes sensitive documents indiscriminately without regard for the safety of people who may be mentioned in those documents. This was certainly the case with the Afghanistan war documents, and is one of the main reason why the WikiLeaks defectors set up OpenLeaks. In an online chat at the time, in reference to the way Assange handled the first leak of Afghanistan war documents, Domscheit-Berg accused him of behaving “like some kind of emperor or slave trader.”
Although the same charge of recklessness is being slung at WikiLeaks over the current Cablegate documents, it seems to have learned from its first mistake. All the Cablegate documents so far have been released piecemeal in partnership with newspapers around the world, whose editorial staff vets and redacts names from them as appropriate.
More than anything, what the existence of OpenLeaks shows is that even if WikiLeaks gets shut down, other services are waiting in the sidelines to pop up to and take its place. Thanks to the Internet, the leakers cannot be stopped.
Photo credit: Flickr/andygee1