whistleblowing | MIT Center for Civic Media

Associated Whistleblowing Press Interview

This is the second interview I did for LeaksWiki, a wiki about leaking organizations, the tools and methods used in leaking, and how leaking can improve in the future. The second interview was with the Associated Whistleblowing Press, a media agency that release leaked information. They have an interesting structure where local nodes help release the information and it is published on their central news site. AWP has also been experimenting with some new tools and methods in leaking, which you can read about in the AWP case study, interview on LeaksWiki, or the same interview below.

LeaksWiki: Transparency for the future of leaking

For my Intro to Civic Media final project, I made LeaksWiki. LeaksWiki is a wiki about leaking organizations, the tools and methods used in leaking, and how leaking can improve in the future. The goal of LeaksWiki is to make leaking safer, easier, and more effective through a transparent understanding and analysis of leaking organizations. Both LeaksWiki and my final paper present a framework of leaking ideologies from radical transparency to selective release. They also explore a general leaking process that all leaking organizations roughly follow through both case studies and detailed discussion of each step of the process. Finally, LeaksWiki and my paper propose potential future improvements to leaking.

Effective Approaches and Experiments in Leak Processing

Since my last post, I have also completed an interview with Juzne vesti and a case study on Associated Whistleblowing Press. I am currently waiting on some followup questions with Public Intelligence and question responses with someone from WikiLeaks. Additionally, I have been working on my paper which is in large part based off of my blog posts, interviews, and case studies. So, which strategies for document processing are most effective in light of the differing goals of leaking websites? And how have leaking organizations been improving these methods?

Drastic Differences in Leaking Websites

I have been researching document processing for my Intro to Civic Media project. Specifically, I have been examining the varying goals as well as processes and tools used in the intermediary steps after a leaked document is received but before it is released. I hope to identify both strategies that work particularly well and difficult areas where few tools or processes are available to help. In the past week, I have been conducting interviews and updating LeakWiki.

Improving Document Processing in Leaking Websites

I am examining document processing in leaking websites for my Intro to Civic Media project. Document processing is a particularly important step because it helps determine both the safety and the effectiveness of a leak. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult step as it requires going through thousands or millions of documents to read, redact, validate, and/or analyze them. It also has the most variation as different organizations might follow different sub-steps or have different goals. Some release the documents without any processing while others might redact and validate the documents and then write articles to frame them.

The Rise of Leaking Websites

We often use the terms 'leaking' and 'whistleblowing' synonymously but their functions are quite different in practice. Whistleblowing is reporting a wrongdoing of some sort with the hope that it will be rectified. Leaking refers to the release of documents, nowadays often in large quantities, in the name of transparency (with whistleblowing potentiallly in mind for the future).

The Whistleblowing Cycle of Change

How does change happen? What factors cause and influence it? To understand how change occurs, we must first determine what specifically we want to change. In general, I think there are two major desired outcomes of change, policy changes and attitude shifts. These two goals of change are not distinct nor are they end goals as change is an endless cycle where one factor affects everything else.

The first type of change alters established policies or creates new policies. Here, policy refers to laws of a country or state, rules of a company, set procedures for a task, or generally any concrete rule, law, procedure, or commonly accepted tenet on any scale. Policy change is a sort of incremental change that can clearly be mapped. While it depends on attitude change to some extent, it often only requires attitude change in a few specific people who have the power to alter policies.

The Role of Technology and the Media in Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing has been the subject of recent controversies due to the rise of WikiLeaks and other whistleblowing websites. These websites mark a new form of whistleblowing only possible because of the Internet and computers as well as connected media partners worldwide. However, whistleblowing has relied on technology and media for a long time. Cryptome has accepted documents online for sixteen years. Daniel Ellsberg used a copier to copy the Pentagon Papers so he could give them to the New York Times. Muckrakers relied on the printing press to spread their findings.