Techno-Politics at WikiLeaks

“This is the first real info war, and you are the soldiers.” John Perry Barlow

Disclosures and leaks have featured in all eras, but never before has a non-state or non- corporately affiliated group done anything like WikiLeaks.*1 *( 1 ) Founded in late 2006, WikiLeaks gained global notoriety throughout 2010 in four waves: the first in April was the release of a video from a US helicopter’s cockpit recording the killing of Iraqis (entitled Collateral Murder), followed by the Afghan War Logs (91,000 documents) and then the Iraq War Logs (391,000 files), all of which were finally eclipsed in the fourth wave by the publication of 250,000 United States diplomatic cables. With “Cablegate” posting millions of documents online morphed from a quantitative into a qualitative one. Never before has a net activist initiative been able to sack ambassadors and ministers, worldwide.

When WikiLeaks hit the mainstream in April 2010 there was little knowledge of things to come. Its network, composed of a handful of core members surrounded by dozens of loosely connected supporters was without a brick and mortar office. It had just recovered from major internal restructuring in late 2009 when it had to take servers offline and face near bankruptcy. During this growth spurt, or perhaps we should say crisis, the “wiki” aspect was dropped and WikiLeaks started to centralise around the personality of its founder, the Australian hacker and internet activist Julian Assange. This chapter examines the organisational implications of decisions made at this moment, in the calm just before the media storm, arguing, to rephrase the anti-globilization movement’s slogan, that Another WikiLeaks is Possible. By way of digging into strategic issues concerning Wikileaks in particular, I will present a techno-materialist reading of leaking electronic documents in the late Web 2.0 era.


Davies, Nick (2010): 10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange. In: The Guardian, Friday 17 December 2010, 21.30 GMT. Online unter: (12.03.2013).


Domscheit-Berg, Daniel (2011): Inside Wikileaks, Meine Zeit bei der gefährlichsten Webseite der Welt, Berlin: Econ Verlag.


Ellison, Sarah (2011): The Man Who Spilled the Secrets. In: Vanityfair. Online unter: (12.03.2013).


Leigh, David /Harding, Luke (2011): Wikileaks, Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, New York: PublicAffairs.


Winer, Dave (2010): Apple is green. In: Scripting News, September 03, 2010. Online unter (12.03.2013).


Wikipedia (a): Electronic discovery. Online unter (12.03.2013).


Wikipedia (b): Operations security. Online unter (12.03.2013).

This is a rewritten and extended version of Ten Theses on Wikileaks, written with Patrice Riemens and originally published on the nettime mailing list and the INC blog on August 30, 2010, see: The theses were updated in early December 2010 in the midst of Cablegate. The “twelve theses” got wide coverage and were translated in Dutch, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

See for a historical overview of the cost of harddrive storage space (reference thanks to Henry Warwick).

In the US 4GB USB sticks can be purchased from around 4.50 to 11 USD. 16 GB sticks cost around 20 USD, whereas 32 gigabytes USB sticks are priced between 40-50 USD (early 2011).

Remark made in the context of the group Anonymous, their actions against the Church of Scientology and the material that Wikileaks published from this sect. See: Domscheit-Berg 2011: 49.

Quoted from the opening video at the homepage of OpenLeaks, January 2010, www.

In Leigh/ Harding (2011: 61) we find a not-necessarily-correct description of how Assange (in early 2010) must have changed his mind about the collaborative “wiki” aspect of the project. “Assange had by now discovered, to his chagrin, that simply posting long lists of raw and random documents on to a website failed to change the world. He brooded about the collapse of his original ‘crowd-sourcing‘ notion: “Our initial idea was, ‘Look at all these people editing Wikipedia. Look at all the junk that they’re working on… […] surely those people will step forward, given fresh source material, and do something?‘ No, it’s bullshit. In fact, people write about things because they want to display their values to their peers. Actually, they don’t give a fuck about the material.”.

Geert Lovink ( 2013): Techno-Politics at WikiLeaks. “This is the first real info war, and you are the soldiers.” John Perry Barlow. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten # 02 ,