Emma Best's New Transparency Project Targets Russian Leaks She Says Wikileaks Refuses To Touch

from the actual-transparency dept

Turnabout, as they say, is only fair play.

If you hadn’t noticed, Wikileaks isn’t quite the transparency operation it used to be. Staffers who routinely helped rein in Assange’s less noble impulses long ago left the effort behind, leaving us with the often bizarre comedy that is Wikileaks in 2019. And while that doesn’t justify the misguided DNC lawsuit or the potential threat to transparency posed by government efforts to prosecute leakers, that doesn’t change one undeniable fact: modern Wikileaks is increasingly seen in infosec and policy circles as a poorly-written joke, long-since buried under the rubble of numerous scandals and Assange’s bulbous ego.

That’s not to say that Wikileaks didn’t provide an invaluable service in its prime. Its early operations lit a much-needed fire under a press routinely terrified of speaking truth to power, especially in regards to the United States’ often bipartisan, mindless unchecked international militarism. These days, however, Wikileaks is more about pandering to MAGA kids for bitcoin donations, selectively avoiding transparency, and levying silly legal threats against the press rather than actually adhering to its core mission of a decade ago.

Still, there’s no doubt that Wikileaks of old contributed to a marginally braver press, even if it remains obvious that a lot of work on this front still needs to be done. And its influence continues to be mirrored by subsequent incarnations looking to improve on the formula, even as those efforts criticize Wikileaks’ increasingly erratic behavior in the wake of a percussive parade of unflattering revelations.

Case in point: transparency activist and long-time infosec reporter Emma Best has unveiled the creation of Distributed Denial of Secrets. The organization is expected to make waves this week with the publication of hundreds of thousands of hacked emails and gigabytes of leaked documents, some of which come from previous hacks of Putin aides like Vladislav Surkov.

Unlike Wikileaks, DDoS will focus more on compiling and curating information, much of it coming from past hacks and breaches, building a sort of museum and library of now easily-accessible information. Especially information related to the Russian government and its bone-grafted relationship to Russian organized crime; stuff, project supporters claim, Wikileaks has steered clear of in recent years:

“A lot of what WikiLeaks will do is organize and re-publish information that?s appeared elsewhere,? said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley?s International Computer Science Institute. ?They?ve never done that with anything out of Russia.”

DDoS differs from WikiLeaks in that it doesn?t solicit direct leaks of unpublished data?its focus is on compiling, organizing, and curating leaks that have already appeared somewhere in public. ?Emma Best, I think, is someone who will actually do a good job,? said Weaver, citing Best?s aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act to extract documents from recalcitrant U.S. agencies. ?Things get so scattered that putting it all into one place is a huge benefit.”

According to the group’s FAQ, the biggest difference between itself and Wikileaks is it won’t advocate for any particular ideology, putting the data itself back as the priority, a concept pretty clearly lost by Wikileaks in recent years:

“Distributed Denial of Secrets (?DDOS?) is a transparency collective, aimed at enabling the free transmission of data in the public interest. We aim to avoid any political, corporate or personal leanings, and to act as a simple beacon of available information. As a collective, we do not support any cause, idea or message beyond ensuring that information is available to those who need it most – the people.”

Needless to say, Best and company are trying to manage the “creeping paranoia” that comes with playing information patty cake with Vlad and friends, having already mitigated what she calls “cyber shenanigans” the group believes was aimed at disrupting Friday’s information dump. Also needless to say, this new operation, like operations before it, will likely be challenged by criticism when it comes to determining how far such transparency efforts should go (in fact it already has). But the fact remains that as long as the press refuses to fully embrace transparency, there’s an evolving role for organizations just like this one.

In the interim, Best has been having fun with Wikileaks supporters who haven’t been handling her criticism of the organization particularly well:

If you’ve been tuned in to Wikileaks and its newer supporters’ aggressive disdain for even the most tempered criticism, things should definitely get interesting when the full data trove drops this week.

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Companies: ddos, distributed denial of secrets, wikileaks

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Comments on “Emma Best's New Transparency Project Targets Russian Leaks She Says Wikileaks Refuses To Touch”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

So… she’s creating an organization that looks a lot like Wikileaks used to look like, back before all the crazy.

As they say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Any word on how she intends to avoid ending up repeating Wikileaks’s slide and looking like they do today? Or is it just “yeah, we’re totally not gonna do that, trust us”?

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

It’s functioning more like a true “wiki”.

Wikileaks, at least in recent memory, has not actually been a wiki. It’s been more of a news publisher.

A news publisher distributes information that may be either first-hand or second-hand. First-hand, such as publishing interviews and investigative reports, or second-hand, such as reprinting Associated Press articles, or publishing an article that aggregates previous news reports.

A true wiki contains only second-hand information. Wikipedia’s policy is to remove [citation needed] any information that can’t be sourced in some other published media, even if that information is truthful and relevant to the article.

Wikileaks’ fame was from actively seeking out and breaking new leaks, acting as their initial publisher. This makes them a gatekeeper of information, which is not helpful to providing a neutral analysis. Even well-meaning verification attempts can result in factual information being ignored, or bogus information being provided as legitimate, let alone when someone like Assange tries to slant it.

Whereas with a proper wiki, there are three separate parties involved. Providing the information (the source), verifying the information (further investigations of the source), and organizing the information (the wiki). There is no vested interest in defending “their story” and ignoring any contradictory reports, or in “protecting their informants”.

It’s entirely possible it will still befall a similar fate to WikiLeaks. Even the best humans are still fallible. But what she’s claiming DDoS will be, is not the same type of entity that WikiLeaks was.

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s not to say that Wikileaks didn’t provide an invaluable service in its prime. Its early operations lit a much-needed fire under a press routinely terrified of speaking truth to power, especially in regards to the United States’ often bipartisan, mindless unchecked international militarism.

That wasn’t Wikileaks’s "prime;" it was the beginning of the end. You can draw a straight causal line from them publishing Bradley Manning’s attention-whoring directly through the chain of events that resulted in their current ruined state.

Wikileaks’s prime was before that, when they focused on exposing real problems like corporate malfeasance and malicious Scientology shenanigans. Getting involved in politics was the worst mistake they ever made.

Sidney Yendis says:

Oh, more anti-Russia propaganda like "Integrity Initiative".

Inside the Temple of Covert Propaganda: The Integrity Initiative and the UK’s Scandalous Information War

Recent hacked documents have revealed an international network of politicians, journalists, academics, researchers and military officers, all engaged in highly deceptive covert propaganda campaigns funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), NATO, Facebook and hardline national security institutions.


SUCH EFFORTS KNOWN SINCE 1977! (see link below) Not really news except for details. Similarly, are 850,000 spooks in "Top Secret America" engaged in massive propaganda to bring about total surveillance state that’ll be run by globalists.

Operation Mockingbird. That scandal involved the unmasking of "more than 400 American journalists who…in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency," as Carl Bernstein revealed in a 1977 Rolling Stone report.


But I DO admire the chutzpah with which this re-writer on tiny little site hands out praise and criticism.

Sidney Yendis says:

Re: Re: Oh, more anti-Russia propaganda like "Integrity Ini

Sidney Yendis, huh? Any relation to Stanley Yelnats, of Holes fame?

No. But thanks for typifiying the silly off-topic diversion of Techdirt.

This may surprise you, but it’s a false name, signifying nothing, simply spelled the last name whatcha call backwards.

Sidney Yendis says:

Re: Oh, more anti-Russia propaganda like "Integrity Initiat

By the way, back when Wikileaks / Assange came to attention, was good speculation that HE TOO is just another "Deep State" plant: apparently ODD background that looks like raised under mind control — oh, I know you kids don’t believe in that, which is largely how they get away with these disinfo psyops. You are suckers for anything from the sources you trust, though, such as accusing high school kids of virulent racist attacks, or at last have the goods on Trump…

Anyhoo, similarly, you didn’t know about what Wikileaks revealed until it was — likely allowed by Them — out. [Wasn’t much more than the dirt on US operations (as the anti-American minion gleefully relates), and, not so oddly if see the pattern: nothing about Israel when should have been.]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh, more Russia propaganda like "Wikileaks”

Hello feelloow Americanski. I to am from state of the Florida as you are can tell. Weather here is vary nice and not cold like in St Petersburg which we are definitely not in ;D. I am liking the changing of the subject. Let us talk of the many other bad things capitalist western dogs have done. And not our agent, oops I mean friend Julian. Is this not right Ivan, I mean Sid?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh, more anti-Russia propaganda like "Integrity Initiative".

Duh. Everyone does information warfare. It’s older than the internet.

Stop by on the million other articles here criticizing the behavior of various US entities, government or otherwise, and blather on about the “moar anti-Amerikan propagadas”.

I dare you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Funny thing is, none of those involved ever claimed that the emails had been tampered with.

Don’t you think Hillary would be out there telling everyone they were bogus if they were? Don’t you think the DNC would be out there saying they were bogus if they were?

I am not saying that Wikileaks is on the up and up, just that if you want to discredit something, you don’t attack the message, you attack the messenger.

Frame him for rape? Didn’t work. Call him a Russian spy or plant? Maybe.

keithzg (profile) says:

We could still use a new WikiLeaks

> DDoS differs from WikiLeaks in that it doesn’t solicit direct leaks of unpublished data—its focus is on compiling, organizing, and curating leaks that have already appeared somewhere in public.

In that case though, we still need a high-profile organization that can securely receive and vet important leaks that *haven’t* already appeared somewhere in public. While this endeavour does sound somewhat useful, in a practical sense it’s far less primary. And the lack of this is the biggest reason WikiLeaks’s breakdown over the past years has been so lamentable.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: We could still use a new WikiLeaks

This is very true. We need a place that can act as a trustworthy source, preferably multiple places, and we need an independent, organized, vetted catalogue to sort and collect the information provided by the sources. DDoS’ goal definitely seems to be on the latter end.

While the Washington Post and Buzzfeed are still far better than nothing, it’s a far cry to call either of them a secure and neutral source. (Though to be fair, the same has become clear of WikiLeaks.)

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

To play devil’s advocate, it may be partly because Russia, Chinese, and Iran make no efforts to appear to be free countries, let alone to have freedom of the press, and offer their citizens little to no protection from government retaliation. Voicing any dissent with the ruling party is generally met with imprisonment, death, torture, or some combination thereof.

Whereas, although America and Friends still have some serious problems with government agents taking power trips on citizens, we have a Constitution and judicial system that allows the citizens to fight back, and to report and share what the government is doing. We still have plenty of cases where it can take years or even decades for people to gain redress for the wrongs done to them, but people are still able to gain redress at all, and anyone is able to publicly discuss those cases and what the government has said and done, and to take many forms of protest against it.

Whereas in Russia or China or Iran (or North Korea, etc.), they would suppress any reports of such a leak and make sure that the voice of any dissenters would not be heard for very long, so there would not be much chance for any change to happen from within. Thus, those leaks would be of less importance than leaks regarding countries that respect the freedom of the press.

This may be trying to ascribe logic to a situation that is actually purely political, but it’s one possibility I see.

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