Attacks on Wikileaks forum

“As a dissenting #Wikileaks supporter, I can confirm this behavior – it’s the main reason I rarely cover WL anymore.” – exiledsurfer

Note: please see the updates – the Forum has announced it will re-open.

On 13th October 2012, the Wikileaks Forum (henceforth called “Forum”) closed their site, their twitter account, and their facebook page.  Tweets sent at the time cited threats against their staff and the family of their staff.

Wikileaks forum was set up by Wikileaks as a discussion area for all things Wikileaks:

The attacks on the forum may be a surprise to some people, but not to those who follow Wikileaks closely.  From where did the attacks come? From the CIA? A shady corportation? No: we believe that the attacks came from a group of hardcore Wikileaks supporters that are known as “Assangistas” on twitter.  The Forum had decided to broaden the debate and invite critics to take part as well.  @Objectivier was given a board to air his views, but Forum welcomed everyone to come and comment, in the belief that free and open debate can never be a bad thing. This did not endear them to all other Wikileaks supporters:

The Jaraparilla twitter account is run by Gary Lord, who claims to be a journalist, and who contributes to wlcentral and (previously) the Forum itself.  While people like Mr Lord do not reflect the views of all Wikileaks supporters, people like him and Rick Downes of Rixstep are quite active in Wikileaks, and are apparently quite well connected in the organisation. Forum also publicly distanced themselves from the famous tweet sent from the @Wikileaks feed, comparing the storming of the US Embassy in Libya with Julian Assange’s situation in the Ecadorian embassy in London, and claiming that the USA had given “tacit approval” for such violence. Forum distancing themselves from such tweets drew an immediate response from @AssangeC and others:

 

 

 

Which was picked up by the twitter accounts who regularly attack critics of Wikileaks:

AssangeC retweeted some to her followers:

 

The attacks were now on – some of which AssangeC again retweeted: showing tacit approval of the actions of these accounts.

 

 

 

 

 

The Friends of Wikileaks Austria asked via their twitter account for evidence:

The Tweet has not received a single reply.

It wasn’t long before the “naming and shaming” began by the attack accounts – listing the admins of the site and giving their twitter account details. We have the URL and screencap of that tweet, but we are not going to publish here, since those listed have since been the subject of the threats that have forced the forum offline. Other tweets started to give what they claim is the first name of one of the admins. We are not publishing those.

AssangeC got in on the “real name” demands:

which was followed by demands to stay away from the forum and various other things:

 

 

The Forum started to block the people who were attacking and insulting them:

but note that that is not the tweet that earned the block; we think it was this one:

or maybe this one:

Certainly there is persistent rudeness from that account – and it is hard to criticise the decision of the Forum to block it. Then the blocking was used and RT’d as further criticism:

Longtime watchers of this scene find this vaguely amusing, as AssangeC and Wikileaks regularly block anyone who expresses disapproval – they don’t even have to be rude.  And they even block journalists. But all the above was not the start of the campaign against the Forum. At one point, on twitter, a bot had been set up to automatically reply to their tweets, in an attempt to discredit them. This is another known tactic of Wikileaks supporters, as can be seen by the bot that stalks @6 with obscenities. The bot always mentioned “Cabledrum”, and there is an account by that name – one of the more vocal critics of the Forum, and the account that started naming the admins.

 

 

Note that the tweet is actually talking about @PGPBOARD, not @Objectiviser. But conflation is quite normal in this area, and many critical accounts are accused of being sockpuppets of PGPBOARD at some point. The replies to that last tweet are also worth a read, just to savour the sort of atmosphere in this sort of exchange. In any case, the campaign by Cabledrummer has been successful:

(see here and here for the two Objectiviser tweets that earned a block; twitter only shows one on that thread)

In any case, the celebrations have begun:

 

 

yet the attacks have not ceased:

 

This new account assumes the threats are not real, but then in the same tweet it likens them to the very real death threats received by us at Wikiwatch.

[REDACTED] justifies closing WL forum as a way to “protect staff”. Interesting that WL trolls are now using same “death threats” argument.

— WL_Forum (@WL_Forum) October 14, 2012

 

The Forum have not commented publicly on the nature of the threats, but as vocal proponents of leaking against powerful organisations, nobody can really condemn them for acting to keep themselves and their families safe. They surely would not hand over the sites to the same people who had launched the attacks against their policy of free speech – better, we would think, to close it down completely.

Still, at least the latest attack account has a sense of irony, given its own attacks on the Forum, made only hours before:

We at Wikiwatch are saddened that the Forum has been driven offline. Their crime: encouraging free and open debate and distancing themselves from some of the views of Wikileaks (while offering wholehearted support in other areas).

As we said at the start: the attacks by Wikileaks supporters on their own forum may be a surprise to some people. But it is not a surprise to anyone who has followed the Wikileaks drama closely.  The Forum broke ranks and did not try to defend all the actions of Wikileaks; they were openly critical of some things.  That they would be disowned was inevitable.  That attacks would follow was sadly predictable.


Update: Following comments on this page by the Wikileaks Forum Admin, we have published a response via our criticism page.

Update 2: The @Wikileaks_forum is back online at the time of writing. And has answered one of the tweets which is displayed above:

In the meantime, the owner of http://wikileaks.za.org/, a South African mirror of Wikileaks has taken the site offline, and linked to this page. He has also made a blog update giving his reasons in more detail.

ExiledSurfer tweeted that he could confirm this sort of behaviour, and invites people to look at his own tweet collection.

Update 3: On 16th October 2012, the wikileaks_forum twitter account announced that the forum was going to be reactivated.

 

In response to a question over whether or not they would allow dissenting voices to be heard, the Forum responded:

The Forum has a new owner:

 

We at Wikiwatch wish them all the best for the future, and we sincerely hope that the Forum will continue to be a place for good debate where differing opinions can be aired. The moderator team they have in place is excellent – so we are very optimistic.

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