Wikileaks stops publishing an effective stop to whistleblowing

Some would properly cheer while other will cry but almost nobody will lack a opinion on Wikileaks. This week it was announced that wikileaks will cease to publish because the campaign that have been running against the organizations apparently have been successful. This has subsequently meant that the Assange and his peers have been standing without effective banking connections. In practice it means that Wikileaks cant do banking or credit card transactions through companies like Visa, MasterCard and PayPal.

“This financial blockade is an existential threat to WikiLeaks. If the blockade is not borne down by the end of the year the organisation cannot continue its work,” Assange told a news conference in central London.

And with the additional problems with hosting there seem to be no end to the troubles of Wikileaks.

The trouble started when wikileaks issued another huge batch of classified U.S. government documents through their website. This action stuck security experts like a guided missile. Previous WikiLeaks had mainly disclosed low-level field reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was bad enough. But this last bundle of information dealt with diplomatic rather than military issues, and at high level in US diplomacy. Some even said that it might be just two or three steps away from the US president. While the information was not really revolutionary or have a major impact on the ground it did show a major gap in US diplomatic security.

As a consequence the US with the help of some of it allies started a campaign that had the purpose to take Wikileaks out of business for good. And it is this campaign that seemingly has been successful.

It would seem to me that there are three lessons to be learned

  1. That nobody can keep secrets forever. No government, agency or company can trust that when information is put in writing, video or graphics it can be kept a secret. At some point it will be discoursed.
  2. There is a difference if you disclose information about people in the “west” e.g. the perceived good or if you rat on people from the “east” e.g. the perceived bad. If your information threaten the statues quo and the normative perception of good and bad one should be careful what you say.
  3. That whoever is named, as the whistleblower will be prosecuted through any means available to them. Either though legal or illegal means the exposed will stop a nothing in-order to see the whistleblower be destroyed.

While we like to think that there is freedom of speech is a universal right and that whistleblowers will be protected it apparently only goes this far.

So lessons learned from this case is that if you have information about the actions of a western government or other powerful “good” institutions you should keep it too yourself because the consequences of disclosure is that you and the people you care about will be destroyed.

Is proactive communication an admission of guilt?

Bank of America Tower in New York City.

Image via Wikipedia

The Bank of America (BofA) who most associate with the financial crisis and its role in the fall of several banks during 2008 have bought a number of domain names ending on “suck” and “blows”. This haven been done in order to prevent other from using the URLs if/when the company is exposed as being unethical by Wikileaks. While there is no evidence (yet) linking BofA to any mischief it does seem odd timing.

BofA was together with Citigroup the biggest buyer of subprime mortgages before the crisis hit and also some of the biggest clients at Lehman Brothers who subsequently failed and took most of the world financial institutions with them. So, there is no doubt that they will have something in their internal communication worth a closer look.

The list of URL that BofA bought included all the top people in the bank with endings like “sucks” or “blows” creating URLs that look like and for the company CEO. Which would be expected if one thought there would be a eminent attack on the brand and the top employees.

Other names are less obvious like and the like, or, Barnaba Ravanne have been involved a company called Rexel that is a leading company within the distribution of electrical parts and supplies. He is also a managing director at BofA having joined after the merger with Merrill Lynch where he was involved in leveraged buyouts in Europe.

Most of the focus of unethical business behavior has been on all the scandals in the US and it will be interesting to see if there is any spillover to Europe. Of cause this is all speculation based on a fling information and could be unrelated to the business of BofA, but it does make one wonder what is going on. I’m sure that the bank knows what it actions were in 2007 to 2008 and I’m sure that they do not want full disclosure of all the information about internal communication or how they in the end managed to survive against all odds.  

Communication is a difficult thing. When companies of any sort tries to be proactive reacting on information which is not available to the public it is bound to lead to speculation. Managers and Directors around the world have been scared ever since WikiLeaks announced that they had information that could lead to the downfall of a major bank, and most responsible business managers would in a situation like that would do what it takes to protect themselves.

With the action that BofA has taken it has left an opening for speculation which needs to be closed as soon as possible. With my own short search on the internet couple with the information about the URLs has been able to construct a possible scenario or at least open a possible string of speculation into what the leaks could be about.

For companies that wants t be proactive they will need to plan ahead. They will need to know what they will need to know what their next step will be as soon as they start taking action that other might be able to follow. A plan could be to disclose why the action was taken and sharing the information that the company has that it believes it will be held accountable to.

It is not rocket science but buying so many URL and at the same time and not communicating about it in an open and credible manor just leave to much room for speculation.