February 07, 2011

Former WikiLeaks Employees Start Their Own Leaks' Site


It’s pretty common for start-ups to be staffed by employees who first worked at more established companies. But in the case of OpenLeaks, the founding employees apparently got fed up with their former boss, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

Assange is now fighting extradition to Sweden where authorities want to question him about two sexual assault investigations. He also has sought to be a highly public figure, and has made WikiLeaks into a highly controversial site offering embarrassing and sometimes damaging information on government leaders.

Last month, Assange told the New Statesman in an interview that he has “files” on Rupert Murdoch and his powerful media company, News Corporation. TechZone360 reports that Assange will release the files on Murdoch “if something happens” to him or WikiLeaks.

The New York Times reports that “a dozen of his former colleagues are creating an alternative Web site for leaks to be governed by what they characterize as a revised vision of radical transparency.”

Herbert Snorrason, a programmer working on OpenLeaks, says the site tries to “avoid the ‘influence of a single figurehead’ by refusing to handle documents itself. Instead, it will act as a neutral conduit to connect leakers with media and human rights organizations,” according to The Times.

“OpenLeaks is a project that aims at making whistleblowing safer and more widespread,” adds the mission posted on the site.

“This will be done by providing dedicated and generally free services to whistleblowers and organizations interested in transparency,” the site adds. “We will also create a Knowledge Base aiming to provide a comprehensive reference to all areas surrounding whistleblowing.”

OpenLeaks says it won’t “accept or publish documents on its own platform” but will create "digital dropboxes" for its members. It wants “the process of submitting leaks safe and easy.”

WikiLeaks meanwhile has been facing all sorts of challenges after it started posting classified diplomatic cables. Several companies, which allowed WikiLeaks to access donations from contributors, cut off any involvement with the site. The site was offline, sporadically. Assange has less time to repair it because is he busy writing a book which may earn as much as $1.7 million, reports The Times. And by his former employees leaving, it makes it even harder to repair the site.

OpenLeaks is not yet operational. The alpha phase began in January 2011, when it started testing with a small group of media organizations and NGOs. The beta phase is expected to start in the second half of 2011, “when we shall open the door for more initiatives,” the site said.



Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell



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