Wikileaks on Life Support, Looking For Funding

Wikileaks, a crusading web service that exposes corporate and government secrets, has announced it’s suspending operations due to a lack of funding. “To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, but will be back soon,” reads a note on the web site. The non-profit service goes on to say that it’s received “hundreds of thousands of pages” of information relating to corrupt banks, the U.S. detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many other issues that it doesn’t have the resources to release:

Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.

Wikileaks has been described by The Guardian as “the brown paper envelope for the digital age.” In one recent case, the service published documents relating to the Trafigura scandal in Britain, documents that a corporation involved in the scandal tried to prevent newspapers from publishing. As The Guardian notes, it also recently released 500,000 pager messages relating to the 9/11 attacks in New York. At a time when many traditional media entities have been cutting back on investigative research, some believe that Wikileaks and sites like it are one of the only remaining checks on corporate and government malfeasance.

Wikileaks says that it has raised “just over $130,000 for this year,” but that it can’t continue until its costs are covered, something the service says will cost roughly $200,000. If it were to pay its staff, the site said its annual costs would be $600,000 (the site is currently run by volunteers). The site is run by The Sunshine Press, which is described as “a non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public.”

It claims to have defended itself against over 100 legal attacks to date. In 2008, a California judge forced the site to remove itself from DNS records due to a complaint by a Cayman Islands-base corporation. Although the founders of the site kept their identities secret for some time after Wikileaks was founded in 2006, it is well-known that they include Australian hacker Julian Assange and Australian broadcaster Phillip Adams.

In another attempt to generate funds, Wikileaks has applied for a Knight Foundation News Fellowship grant in the amount of $532,000. The application states that:

“Wikileaks enables whistleblowers and censored journalists to safely reveal primary-source material to the world. We have sourced thousands of stories for newspapers all over the world and helped expose both corporate and government corruption on a global scale. We seek funding from the Knight News Challenge to build the mechanisms and customizations needed to transform our successful, self-funded pilot into a powerful voice for local reform.”

As part of the submission, Wikileaks says it will create a widget for local newspapers, which would allow users to upload documents to Wikileaks directly, and anonymously. The service says it has “a list of strong partners who are eager to be beta testers of this system,” and that it plans to translate its templates into six major world languages, localize our legal information, and “increase server infrastructure around the world.”

In the video embedded below, from the 26th Chaos Communications Congress, an annual hacker conference in Berlin, the founders of Wikileaks discuss their proposal to create an information “data haven” in Iceland, or what they call a “Switzerland of bits”:


Post photo and thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user Jeremy Brooks