Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

The Next WikiLeaks

It is my opinion that in spite of being at the peak of its visibility since launch that WikiLeaks is done for.

The American response to the perceived damage done by wikileaks has been right in line with the one usually reserved by the Chinese government when dealing with people that try to spread information that does not sit well with it. First deny, then to try to control the information flow through technological means, finally to attempt to jail those spreading the information and now open calls by politicians to kill the perpetrators, with specific mentions of firing squads and assassinations.

Julian Assange is ‘damaged goods’, his reputation is now solidly tarnished by the sex scandal [1] and his perceived use of the insurance torrent [2] to be held over the heads of those that want to arrest him for the sex related charges is not helping his public image (even though he may be fully justified in his defense, the Swedish government does not come off smelling of roses in this particular case, especially since they seem to refuse the offer of Assange for a visit to the Swedish embassy in England, normally interpol arrest warrants [3] are reserved for parties that are trying to avoid meeting with your representatives).

It would have been better to clarify that the sex scandal and any related charges or penalties would never trigger the release of that file.

WikiLeaks’ domains are either non-functional or spotty [4], their hosting facilities are being restricted by companies bending to American pressure [5], attacked by botnets [6] and their funding possibilities are being restricted [7].

And all that over what ? A pile of high grade gossip interspersed with the occasional juicy nugget, inconvenient, but only if you have a massive ego (hi mr. Berlusconi), hardly the thing to get your panties in a twist over. The videos released earlier this year were far more damaging for America than the current chunk of information.

Still, I think WikiLeaks’ days are numbered.

Remember ‘Napster’ ? Gnutella ? Those were the first iterations of peer-to-peer networks that spread files (mostly music) around between people. As the powers that be cracked down on these centralized systems they went under, only to be immediately replaced by more resilient versions. Which, predictably, came under attack almost as fast as they became popular. This cycle repeated several times to the point where we now have ‘magnet’ links, totally decentralized chunks of information that allow you to find files shared using tracker-less torrents, a system that is very hard to destroy because it has been built under pressure of severe persecution. It’s the internet equivalent of an evolutionary arms race where one party leapfrogs the other to come out with a better solution against the threats from the previous generation. As far as the music industry is concerned, and the iTunes store turnover not-withstanding this battle is now lost.

WikiLeaks is like the Napster of information transparency, a centralized entity around a charismatic person (remember Shawn Fanning) that has angered some very powerful people.

And I think this is the starting shot for another arms race. The next iteration of wikileaks will be more decentralized, less tied to a single individual and far more resilient against attack.

It will not rely on money as much as wikileaks does, the editorial work will be farmed out to the press and the public at large and it will be more of a conduit than something with editorial control over what gets released and what does not.

Just like what happened to the file sharing scene the ‘whistle-blowing’ will get a little less convenient but it will become all the more effective for that reason, and much more robust. Governments should take notice that driving wikileaks out of the business it is in will make the future harder for them, not easier. Better to deal with the devil that you know.

[1] http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/08/30/businessinsider-wikileaks-sex-scandal-julian-assange-2010-8.DTL

[2] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/wikileaks-insurance-file/

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/18/sweden-arrest-warrant-julian-assange

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11907641

[5] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101201/tc_afp/usdiplomacyinternetwikileakscongressamazon

[6] http://www.securitypronews.com/insiderreports/insider/spn-49-20101202WikileaksSuffersDDoSAttackDroppedfromAmazonServers.html

[7] http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/04/paypal-shuts-down-wikileaks-account