Friday, December 10, 2010
A Swarm Of Leaks
WikiLeaks’ rivals will be hard to fight
The Economist | Dec 9th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION
REMEMBER Napster? In July 2001 a court told it to block access to copyrighted music files. But this did not stop people swapping tunes—and Napster returned as a legal subscription service.
Similarly, WikiLeaks may die, but leaking will not. An existing rival is Cryptome, founded in 1996 as a part-time “amateur operation” by John Young and Deborah Natsios, two New York architects with libertarian leanings. A new site, not yet named, will start in Germany this month, created by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who left WikiLeaks after feuding with its founder, Julian Assange. He says power will be “as distributed as possible” in the new outfit.
The rivals differ in their approaches to technology and in their methods. WikiLeaks seeks donations. Mr Young pays his site’s monthly $200 hosting costs from his own pocket. Mr Domscheit-Berg has not said how his new service will finance itself, but he is writing a book about his time at WikiLeaks which may sell well.
It seems that both sites will be even bolder with the material they disclose. Mr Young, who has already posted more than 58,000 files, including suppressed photographs of American soldiers killed in Iraq, denies that naming names in leaked documents endangers anybody. Editing them out, he says, is a sign of self-importance by those who run whistle-blowing sites. And the new German site wants to allow leakers to decide how their documents will appear.
If the history of file-sharing is any guide, rivals will multiply. Technology is on their side. Software called BitTorrent allows personal computers to join what is called a “swarm of hosts”, which download and upload from one to another, with no guiding authority. Cisco, which makes networking equipment, thinks file-sharing now comprises nearly half of consumer internet traffic: a poor return on the music and film industries’ efforts to stop it. This swarm can sting.
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