WikiLeaks is under siege – MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and Amazon have all severed ties with the controversial organization in recent days, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is currently being held in a London prison, awaiting word on whether he will be extradited to Sweden, where he would face questioning over sex-crime allegations. In the meantime, many supporters have created hundreds of mirror sites, in an effort to prevent WikiLeaks data from being scrubbed from the Web.
But mirror sites are essentially just a temporary fix, not a longterm strategy. Enter the team behind OpenLeaks, a site which is expected to go live on Monday. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, OpenLeaks is essentially a 2.0 version of WikiLeaks, run by a team of former WikiLeaks team members. The difference: OpenLeaks would be "democratically" controlled by a board of volunteers.
"Our long-term goal is to build a strong, transparent platform to support whistleblowers – both in terms of technology and politics – while at the same time encouraging others to start similar projects," an anonymous OpenLeaks rep told DN. "As a short-term goal, this is about completing the technical infrastructure and ensuring that the organization continues to be democratically governed by all its members, rather than limited to one group or individual."
That last line is a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at Assange, who was seen by many critics as preening and egotistical. So could OpenLeaks work? Maybe. As Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica notes, OpenLeaks would apparently be run "neutrally"; "political agendas" would not play into the group's operational decisions. In other words, the site would compile information without curating it.
"Such a strategy seems appropriate if OpenLeaks wants to avoid some of the backlash that WikiLeaks and Assange has seen thus far," Cheng writes. "Instead of thrusting itself into the limelight, OpenLeaks would simply act as a document repository for news organizations to pillage, putting the editorial control and hard decision-making (such as which details to censor and which to publish) into the hands of actual journalists."
[Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated why Assange faced extradition to Sweden. He was wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual abuse.]