What a Hit Piece Against WikiLeaks Looks Like

What an agenda against WikiLeaks looks like

In short:

  1. It’s deliberately misleading.
  2. It leaves out a lot of relevant information.
  3. It continues to be inaccurate on points despite the author knowing better.
  4. It goes out of its way to criticize WikiLeaks, regardless of accuracy or relevance.
  5. The article publicizes the existence of “dangerous” information while it was still available.
  6. The author continues to deny any responsibility for the above.
  7. The article ignores the fact that the author never contacted reached out to quickly solve the problem without publicizing the “dangerous” information.
  8. The author flat out lies about many others trying to contact me to have the files taken down.
  9. The article edits others’ full statements for length while criticizing others for doing the same on Twitter.
  10. The author objects to on the record quotes being used.
  11. While I was unwilling to unilaterally decide that the voter information should remain public, the author feels free to unilaterally declare that none of it is newsworthy.

If it’s not clear what I’m talking about yet, it’s the AKP leaks and Zeynep’s article that publicized the previously unknown presence of voter information. Her article was and is inaccurate and published before the information was taken down. While she did raise some good points, more and more it looks like Zeynep’s primary goal was and is to bash WikiLeaks and have all of the files removed, not just the ones with personal information. That isn’t discretion – that’s censorship.

I didn’t intend to write about this subject again this soon, but three factors have persuaded me to.

  1. A fair number of people continue to misunderstand what I did.
  2. The subject continues to be discussed and misunderstood in general.
  3. For a variety of reasons, I’ve grown increasingly concerned with how Zeynep Tufekci has handled the situation and how she continues to respond to it.

The first point is one I think I can address fairly quickly. I did not release or publish the files. I archived a copy of the files, which then became highly referenced and received a few thousand downloads. I accept that, but it had already been released and published when I archived the copy. Blaming me for the release itself is lazily inaccurate. When I do release something, I stand by it. The second point is a bit more complicated, so I encouraged people to closely re-read my original piece and the Motherboard article.


Doubting Zeynep

The third point is more complex, although the short version is that I can no longer assume Zeynep is acting entirely in good faith. The biggest factor that leads me to this conclusion is that while she demands everyone else accept responsibility for their part in things, she has yet to do so herself. She publicized the existence of the files while they were still available on the Internet Archive, without ever contacting me about it. Had she wished to do so, she could’ve easily reached me. My name was listed as the uploader; my email address was listed in the metadata for the item; my email address is also published elsewhere and my Twitter account accepts Direct Messages from anyone for this very reason. She didn’t do any of those things.

Instead of reaching out to me to resolve the issue quickly or waiting for the files to be taken down by the staff at the Archive, she publicized the existence of the specific information while criticizing WikiLeaks for sharing a link to a page that contained 100GB dataset that contained that specific information. When I pointed this out to her and criticized her for not waiting to publish the article until after the files were taken down, she responded by saying “Others had tried. A lot.” That’s a flat out lie. Neither she nor anyone had contacted me at all until the day after, when a third party asked me about it. She then went on to deflect any sense of responsibility for what she had done. “Why this focus on what world I should have used or done?” As far as I’m aware, she also didn’t attempt to contact The Cthulhu or Phineas Fisher before publishing the article.

Focus on WikiLeaks, not me.

In her article, she said (referring to me) that “it’s good to see at least one person take responsibility for his own part, learn from the incident.” Nevertheless, she refuses to take responsibility for her own part in publicizing the information or to learn from the incident.

More Inaccuracies and Lies

Her article is inaccurate in other ways. Not only did she leave out the mention that WikiLeaks didn’t upload, host, or release the files in question, it was deliberately worded to give the false impression that they did. “Wikileaks dumped some 300,000 emails they chose to call ‘Erdogan emails.’ … However, this dump does include massive databases containing sensitive and private information of millions of ordinary people, including a special database of almost all adult women in Turkey.” [Emphasis added] She seems to deny that she even said this, as she “concluded [WikiLeaks] publicized it” and “never reasonably concluded that it was theirs.” Her article still says “WikiLeaks never bothered to take down its Twitter and Facebook posts” despite her knowing that this isn’t true and that the tweet was removed after the link was rendered invalid. In the original version, the article was deliberately misleading.

The article’s inaccuracies continue in statements such as the emails not coming from AKP. As she said about the very subject, “the main problem here is deception” – albeit in this case, the deception is hers. While most of the initial batch of emails weren’t sent by the AKP, they were collected by the AKP. This alone makes them arguably newsworthy, especially given the fact that there was more coming. However, before WikiLeaks could release it the full load was dumped online and then made more widely available by The Cthulhu. Her article still does not acknowledge his role or the role of Phineas Fisher, who actually acquired and released the files. Her article also argues, quite oddly, that the files aren’t from AKP but they do include accurate voter information and other government records which she personally verified.

The impact of the articles inaccuracies may be enhanced by the unnamed “journalists and anti-censorship activists” in Turkey whom she claims to have spoken with and to speak for. The same article continuously picks at things WikiLeaks’ did that she claims not to care about (such as the admittedly questionable “Orientalist imagery”), yet included criticisms of it anyway. She didn’t hesitate to criticize WikiLeaks on every front possible.

Her article also edited my statement for length, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for her later hypocritical behavior. She criticized me for paraphrasing her words in a tweet with a limited character count. She then effectively denied saying what I paraphrased, which led me to tweet a screenshot of the Direct Message where she had said it and in which she also said I could attribute it to her. Although she never retracted the first statement, she did send a longer one several minutes and several messages later. I used the longer statement in my article, but since she never retracted her original statement it remained fully quotable and attributable. Nevertheless, she repeatedly criticized me in public tweets, insisted I use the other statement which I had already quoted, and accused me of misunderstanding. In reality, she had miscommunicated at best. At worst, she let slip how irrelevant she considered the fact. There was no misunderstanding on my part – she went on the record and never retracted the statement.

After the article was published, she expressed through Twitter several other things to me that are somewhat alarming. First, she seems to display little awareness or interest in who the people involved in the AKP hack and release are. She was ignorant about basic facts regarding both Phineas Fisher and The Cthulhu. For instance, she accused Fisher of being an amateur hacker. The fact that she was unaware of basic details about who was involved in the release is especially alarming since she never tried to contact me to have it removed, as it increases the possibility that she simply didn’t care. She also said that not only does she not agree with The Cthulhu’s decision to keep hosting the files, but she cannot fathom what his justification is despite having read his statement about it and claiming to have spoken with him.

Concluding thoughts

Maybe she didn’t mean it to be a hit piece against WikiLeaks, I can’t speculate as to her motives – but it’s exactly what a hit piece against them would look like. The original inaccuracies and problems with it have become increasingly unforgivable, especially when combined with her own lack of sense of responsibility. If the article wasn’t meant as a hit piece, however, then it’s terribly negligent given the original content that was purposefully misleading and the incorrect statements that continue to linger in the article, such as the WikiLeaks never removed the link. The bad faith that she seems to have been acting under leads me to conclude that her judgment on the issue can’t be trusted. At this point, I would be much more willing to trust WikiLeaks’ judgment if and when they continue the Turkey leaks

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