WikiLeaks: social activism online

Founder Julian Assange being interviewed by TedTalks in July 2010.
Leaked footage of a 2007 a US military incident in Baghdad, Iraq released by WikiLeaks.
  • According to the WikiLeaks website: “WikiLeaks is a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public. Since July 2007, we have worked across the globe to obtain, publish and defend such materials, and, also, to fight in the legal and political spheres for the broader principles on which our work is based: the integrity of our common historical record and the rights of all peoples to create new history.”
  • WikiLeaks is high-profile wiki-style website that claims to have published more classified documents than the rest of the world media combined.
  • The website is a product of social activism. The sources are purposely kept anonymous, and the website destroys any traces of information that may lead to the original sources.
  • The advent of Internet technology has allowed a larger audience to have access to traditionally protected information.
  • WikiLeaks is an instance where a subculture is being introduced into mainstream and popular culture. It is using the medium of online spaces to expose a previously unpublished area of knowledge. The topic and information available is generally of interest to both media and consumers of media products, amplifying the spread of this source.

Comparisons to Graffiti

  • A clear social message is being conveyed: allowing access to this ever-growing set of information highlights their purpose, which includes keeping a check on government, good governance and political transparency.
  • Posts are available to users who have unrestricted access to the Internet, similar to graffiti artwork being visible on public properties.
  • There are conflicts with authority. Many jurisdictions, such as the US government, want to interrogate how the website gets hold of their base of sensitive information.


  • Most posts and sources are kept strictly anonymous, while in graffiti culture, instances of tagging produce author recognition, albeit only decipherable within the subculture or as aliases. There are also works of graffiti that are kept anonymous, however.
  • Graffiti in physical form can be scratched, cleaned away, or removed. The structure of WikiLeaks on the Internet allows this information to be relatively established online. As noted on their website, although their server can be removed, the Internet transcends national boundaries, and Internet technology and cryptography (network security), along with a network of lawyers and other, all protect their work. “WikiLeaks information is distributed across many jurisdictions, organizations and individuals. Once a document published it is essentially impossible to censor.”
  • The audience reach is far greater. While graffiti is normally only seen by those who pass by it in person, or else in photos etc, WikiLeaks is available via the Internet to anyone who has online access.