Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

Anonymous person sitting by a laptop.
Julian Assange.
Unlocking secret information worldwide.
Apache attack helicopter.
American soldier in Iraq.

At a time when the Internet was still a rarity to most people, Julian Assange was already an avid web user and experienced hacker. Assange was also a strong supporter of Internet freedom, and together with some friends he set up an Internet forum where people could share politically sensitive views. Soon after, attempts by outsiders to censor content on this forum made the young computer genius more convinced than ever that he must oppose those who suppress important information from the public.

WikiLeaks is born

In line with his convictions to keep information free, in 2006, Assange and others created WikiLeaks, an online platform where people anonymously could leak important information. The incoming leaked material was then to be published on WikiLeaks’ own website as well as relayed to large media outlets around the world. In this way, Assange believed, would documented abuses of power be given the maximum reach while whistleblowers were given the maximum protection.

Soon, leaks began to come in. The leaks involved governmental agencies and private organizations around the world, and concerned such things as corruption, physical maltreatment and toxic waste. The disclosures were widely celebrated as victories, but WikiLeaks, due to its publication of previously undisclosed material, was also accused of breaking privacy laws and endangering the lives of innocent individuals. Secret informants, for example, became riskily exposed by their names being included in some of the thousands of pages-long data dumps that WikiLeaks made public.

A viral video

Though WikiLeaks admittedly was effective already in its first years, its real rise to fame came in 2010, when a video named Collateral Murder was released. This video depicted how an American military helicopter crew in Iraq, seemingly indiscriminately, sprayed bullets into a group of people on a Baghdad street. Casualties in the Baghdad attack included journalists and children, and the event provoked widespread debate over the legality of the attacks and over how the United States waged war. This debate, quite naturally, was rather embarrassing for the supposed leader of the free world.

Rock star-like fame

The Collateral Murder video and all the media attention WikiLeaks was given in 2010 raised Julian Assange’s profile. The Australian crusader now obtained rock star-like fame, and not surprisingly used his celebrity status to bring even more attention to his cause. This cause, simply put, was to prevent future evildoing by exposing and publicly shaming evil deeds already committed. Very soon, however, Assange was to fall from grace.