WikiLeaks on Trial?

It would seem that the supporters of WikiLeaks have found a home in the online Reddit community. While the website has been the cause of much attention for it’s GamerGate controversy, and has been one of the main platforms for its propagation. The platform bills itself as a news aggregation/bulletin hybrid, where users can comment and conduct discussion threads around these topics. Reddit has somewhat of a reputation for being a breeding ground for amateur “reporters”, conspiracy theories, and online harassment. That reputation is also skewed somewhat male, with misogynistic tendencies, although this is hard to prove as much of the site’s population is anonymous. Under those conditions it has been also somewhat of a breeding ground for WikiLeaks, and the fear and doubt it operates under.

In previous post’s I have mentioned how many of the pro-Snowden/Assange groups are notoriously conspiracy driven. They try and find, and seem to believe that there are, conspiracies everywhere. Reddit, more than any other site I have seen thus far, seems to be home to people who really take these conspiracies seriously, and get quite ugly in their defense of them. Many criticisms of Reddit attack specifically the Hive mentality it seems to affect, so when the users of pro-Assange sub-reddits get together, it can be a true conspiracy fun-fest.

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The subreddit /r/WikiLescreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-23-05-pmaks contains a picture of Assange with a halo as it’s header image. Related subreddits in the sidebar include: r/conspiracy, r/darknetplan, r/desentintotyrany, and r/Wemaketheterror.

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The subreddit r/DNCleaks includes links to r/HillaryforPrison and r/StillSandersforPres. These subreddits run on a sort of anti-establishment passion—a hatred for the “they” that members of these communities see themselves as up against. This anti-establishment fervor rings throughout Reddit. /r/The_Donald has been a hotbed for “alt-right” activity, and if often accused of being a “Hate Speech” forum. Indeed it would seem that it has become a home of the self-titled “alt-right” party which seems to also source much of its content from the /r/wikileaks subreddits, and frequently mention that even WikiLeaks have been censored.

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However: When the staff of Wikileaks conducted an official AMA (ask me anything), they found the forum to be not so welcoming. Many questions were calling into question the legitimacy of their editorial practices, including not filtering or censoring the dumps, selective releases, and their seeming favor for Trump to win the election. One question, “Why do you want Donald Trump to win?” got almost 300 replies criticizing their response, which was incredibly elusive.

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A similar response was garnered when essentially the same question was asked, wherein they contradicted the statements of Assange.

 

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This AMA was the largest congregation of people critical of Wikileaks/Assange that I have seen on the internet today. There were two “master posts” that took on the folly of WikiLeaks, while sourcing much information AGAINST WikiLeaks. The staff did not respond to these posts. It did, however, engage in the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which claims that John Podesta is tied to a child prostitution ring, run out of the Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong in DC. The thread surrounding Pizzagate was removed from Reddit, and now contains the disclaimer: “We don’t want witchhunts on our site.” The Wikileaks staff, on the other hand, decided not to condemn or question it’s legitimacy, but to provide further legitimacy and acknowledge it; telling us that they found the conspiracy “interesting.”

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If anything it seems that the staff of WikiLeaks are a fan of the WikiLeaks supportive areas of Reddit (and also its unfounded conspiracy theories.) This, in my eyes, is concerning precisely because of the relationship those areas of WikiLeaks have to the conspiracy and paranoia driven witch-hunt areas of Reddit like /r/hillaryforprison and /r/conspiracy.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction their AMA got, which was overwhelmingly critical of their failures to understand the harm in what they do. I think here, I have found finally a community vocally critical of WikiLeaks, and the closest thing to an anti-Assange movement I have seen thus far.

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