The controversial whistleblower website WikiLeakS.org seems to be experimenting with a new way of raising money, by trying to auction off "exclusive" leaked material to
The WikiLeakS.org Press release:
From: Wikileaks Press Office
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 20:38:47 +0100
Inside Venezuela - over 8, 000 diplomatic emails 2005-2008
Wikileaks has prepared for publication over 8,000 internal and
external emails to and from a senior Venzuelan diplomat and former
speech writer for Hugo Chavez. The emails are dated 2005 to July
2008, and include several thousand attachments. The preparation
includes a "one touch" translation system to over a dozen different
The material provides a unqiue insight into the Bolivarian revolution,
President Chavez's manamgement of his inner circle, and affairs
ranging from Cuban and Venezuelan contacts, sentiments about CIA
activites in Venezuela, Columbian incursions, the visit of the
Pope and Venezuelan views on many other countries and events.
Organizations wishing to bid for exclusivity (proceeds to our source
defense fund) and embargoed access contact email@example.com for
This is certainly a departure from their previous media management and publicity efforts, and raises a few ethical questions, some of which are noted in Ryan Singel's article in Wired magazine - Latest Wikileaks Prize for Sale to the Highest Bidder - Update
Some Obvious Ethical and Practical Questions:
- How much money is this story / source material on offer worth, in terms of cold hard cash ?
- Will WikiLeakS.org pay any money to people who provide them saleable "media exclusive" leaks ?
- If not, then why not ?
- If so, how will they still protect the anonymity of their sources, given that financial transactions leave an audit trail, or involve face to face meetings ?
- Will WikiLeakS.org employ secret agent style dead letter drops or cut outs to pay informants ?
- Will WikiLeakS.org modify their submission forms to include a "I do not want this information to be sold for money" caveat by the whistleblower ?
- Will they be bound by such a declaration by a whistleblower ?
- Many of the better quality mainstream media organisations do not pay for stories, as a matter of policy . Ryan Singel's article mentions The Washington Post, and Steve Aftergood quoted in the same article cites the New York Times. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is another such news organisation which does not pay for stories. Will such organisations refuse to touch a "story" where only tabloid sensationalist media are in the financial bidding ?
- Why should "exclusive access" for a period of time, be restricted to private sector media organisations with money ?
- How long should any such exclusive access embargo period last for ?
- Would WikiLeakS.org delay publication of a "leak", if, say, a state controlled media organisation paid them to do so ?
- Would WikiLeakS.org delay publication of a "leak", if, say, a private sector media organisation, owned by a billionaire with other commercial interests and government contacts e.g. the former Australian now US citizen Rupert Murdoch, or the Uzbek / Russian Alisher Usmanov, paid them to do so ?
- Will WikiLeakS.org be open and transparent about their criteria for accepting or rejecting media bids for such exclusive story leaked source material ?
- Will just the fact of announcing a Media Auction, succeed in raising mainstream media interest in the story, regardless of how little money actually ever changes hands ?
The scenario involving the keeping the details of the leaked information secret, for a time period, even if it is going to be published eventually, is one which we have noted previously, in our criticism of the lack of a current, valid PGP Public Encryption Key to protect whistleblower leaked material sent via the postal mail route.