Tech, The World, Now + Beyond

Should we trust Wikileaks?

Wikileaks may have helped Trump. Now, it might be able to help us.

During the election, Wikileaks contributed to Trump’s ammunition against Hillary Clinton by leaking those emails. Respected members of the US government have denounced the website. European authorities once arrested Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief, for sexual assault.

There is a lot to not like about Wikileaks. Especially if you supported Clinton in the election. Indeed, in the wake of the CIA leaks, some have even resorted to defending CIA espionage in order to denounce the website.

Yet Wikileaks is pushed into the limelight with every new data dump. Almost every outlet has covered the most recent leaks. Many media companies have teamed up with the website, as shown by the website’s extensive partners list. Wikileaks is the primary source for journalists writing about government overreach. And perhaps more importantly, it is an essential tool for anyone who wants to engage in activism or dissent. Here is why:

The recent CIA leaks provide a rare glimpse into reality.

Shortly after the leaks, there was a frightening attempt to downplay their contents by the media. The Washington Post wrote that the CIA is not conducting “mass surveillance,” rather, it is spying on individual devices (which are, in fact, mass produced & distributed).

In reality, what the leaks reveal is nothing short of terrifying. We have known about government surveillance for a while. But it is easy to forget, in our day to day lives, that the government has this enormous, undemocratic ability to access our private information. This leak has reminded us.

This is really bad. The CIA, tasked by Obama to reveal software vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed, has instead exploited these weaknesses for its own advantages. Your phone, laptop, or television can be accessed through security flaws, effectively bypassing message encryption apps. The government can access your microphones and cameras. And, if these software loopholes exist, any rogue hacker, even outside of the CIA, can exploit them.

Do not be worried about a partisan allegiance.

It’s true, election night was a disaster, and Wikileaks may or may not have contributed to Donald Trump’s win. But that does not mean the website has stayed loyal to any particular candidate. In addition to targeting the Clinton campaign, Wikileaks has expressed interest in publishing Trump’s tax returns.

During his campaign, Trump claimed to “love” Wikileaks for its supposed damage to the Clinton campaign. After the most recent CIA debacle, his opinions are changing.

Wikileaks is more anti-secrecy than anti-Democrat. And what was revealed in the Clinton, DNC, and Podesta emails is also extremely important. We learned of the DNC’s effort to undermine Bernie Sanders. We learned of attempts to legitimize Trump in order to bolster Clinton. The emails may have spawned a weird internet child porn conspiracy, but keeping both sides accountable is worth it.

Good journalism is whistleblowing.

In 1971, the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret history of the US’s role in Vietnam from the Department of Defense. The papers contained information unknown by the mainstream media as well as part of the government itself. The leak was exemplary journalism, demonstrating the true power-checking purpose of the press. It was also very illegal.

Lately, with a few exceptions, large media companies such as the New York Times have been less willing to take these risks. Wikileaks is picking up their legacy. There will always be a need to keep our government responsible, whether or not our favorite party is in power.

A treasure trove for activists.

Government mass surveillance and US military expansion are important issues, but they do not receive the attention they deserve in the mainstream news cycle. Thanks to Wikileaks, activists have a rallying point to begin to tap into ordinary people’s outrage over government wrongdoing.

Leaks are a key tool for the resistance; they reveal problems that could never have been covered otherwise, because the information did not exist. In the ongoing fight for justice, we can use this evidence to our advantage.