Wikileaks has exposed personal information on hundreds of private citizens around the world — including outing a gay man from Saudi Arabi, naming rape victims, and releasing psychiatric information — it also identified multiple people living with HIV and/or the common comorbidity, hepatitis C.
As a result of the names and personal information being exposed, many who have supported Wikileaks in the past were forced to question the definition of freedom. Is it an act of “freedom” to expose people’s private information to the world? Surely there are limits to the idea that "information wants to be free."
AP reports the number of innocent people affected throughout the world are in the high hundreds. In released documents from Saudi Arabia alone, there are at least 500 passport, identity, academic, and/or employment files. Some of these documents reveal the names of partners of women who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections like HIV and hepatitis C. In some parts of the world, simply having such a diagnosis may lead to deportation, or even physical violence.
In 2010, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange insisted the site worked under a system that keeps the privacy of regular citizens safe, AP points out. It was the same year his website was made famous when it released evidence leaked by Chelsea Manning revealing abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. It led to her court martial and imprisonment.
Clearly Assange’s attitude shifted, as withholding a private citizen’s information doesn’t seem to be part of Wikileaks' agenda anymore. In fact, some cables identifying domestic workers who’d been tortured or sexually abused by employers revealed the women’s full names and passport numbers — which were not redacted by Wikileaks before being released.
The leak also exposed names of male teenagers who had been raped by men while out of the country, describing the incidents in excruciating detail — including one male teenager who was assaulted so violently that his legs were broken.
The release of names of sexual assualt victims is even more disturbing considering Assange has been accused of raping a woman in Sweden.
Vesselin Bontchev, a researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, suggested to AP that Wikileaks no longer takes steps to filter the materials they publish: “Their understanding of journalism is finding an interesting document in a trash can and then dumping the can on your front door.”
While its mission at the beginning was to expose corruption and wrongdoings, now, Wikileaks seems to be doing more wrong than right.
When the site leaked hundreds of emails from the Democratic National Committee ahead of the convention, a move that led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, among others, Assange said to Bill Maher he was “super happy” with the results, calling it “great fun.”
In fact, it seems as though Assange has deliberately timed the release of these emails to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. As The New York Times reported, Assange has told a number of reporters (including Robert Peston of Britian's ITV network), that he opposes Clinton's candidacy and views her as a personal enemy.
When Preston asked, “Plainly, what you are saying, what you are publishing, hurts Hillary Clinton. Would you prefer Trump to be president?”" Assange replied that while Trump was “completely unpredictable,” Clinton would be "a bit of a problem for freedom of the press.” Sure, Clinton may have pushed for Assange's indictment after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as Secretary of State; but hasn't Trump banned media outlets, threatened to sue others, and promised to "open up" libel laws?
Its looking less and less like Assange is motivated by the freedom of the press and journalistic standards and more by personal vendettas and the "great fun" had in exposing the private information of innocent people — consequences be damned.