WikiLeaks is an NGO owned by Icelandic company Sunshine Press Productions ehf that runs a website that has published news leaks and classified media provided by anonymous sources. Wikipedia
Founders: Julian Assange, John Young
Founded: October 4, 2006, Iceland
Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton
WikiLeaks popularised conspiracy theories about the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, such as tweeting articles which suggested Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta engaged in satanic rituals, implying that the Democratic Party had Seth Rich killed, claiming that Hillary Clinton wanted to drone strike Assange, suggesting that Clinton wore earpieces to debates and interviews, promoting thinly sourced theories about Clinton’s health and according to Bloomberg creating “anti-Clinton theories out of whole cloth”, and promoting a conspiracy theory from a Donald Trump-related Internet community tying the Clinton campaign to child kidnapper Laura Silsby.
2016 U.S. presidential election
Allegations of anti-Clinton and pro-Trump bias
Assange wrote on WikiLeaks in February 2016: “I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgement and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. … she certainly should not become president of the United States.” In a 2017 interview by Amy Goodman, Julian Assange said that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like choosing between cholera or gonorrhea. “Personally, I would prefer neither.” WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison stated that the site was not choosing which damaging publications to release, rather releasing information available to them. In conversations that were leaked in February 2018, Assange expressed a preference for a Republican victory in the 2016 election, saying that “Dems+Media+liberals would [sic] then form a block to reign [sic] in their worst qualities. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities, dems+media+neoliberals will be mute.” In further leaked correspondence with the Trump campaign on election day (8 November 2016), WikiLeaks encouraged the Trump campaign to contest the election results as being “rigged” should they lose.
Having released information that exposed the inner workings of a broad range of organisations and politicians, WikiLeaks started by 2016 to focus almost exclusively on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, WikiLeaks only exposed material damaging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks even rejected the opportunity to publish unrelated leaks, because it dedicated all its resources to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. According to The New York Times, WikiLeaks timed one of its large leaks so that it would happen on the eve of the Democratic Convention. The Washington Post noted that the leaks came at an important sensitive moment in the Clinton campaign, as she was preparing to announce her vice-presidential pick and unite the party behind her. The Sunlight Foundation, an organisation that advocates for open government, said that such actions meant that WikiLeaks was no longer striving to be transparent but rather sought to achieve political goals.
WikiLeaks explained its actions in a 2017 statement to Foreign Policy: “WikiLeaks schedules publications to maximize readership and reader engagement. During distracting media events such as the Olympics or a high profile election, unrelated publications are sometimes delayed until the distraction passes but never are rejected for this reason.” On 7 October 2016, an hour after the media had begun to dedicate wall-to-wall coverage of the revelation that Trump had bragged on video about sexually harassing women, WikiLeaks began to release emails hacked from the personal account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Podesta suggested that the emails were timed to deflect attention from the Trump tapes.
Secret correspondence between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr.
In November 2017, it was revealed that the WikiLeaks Twitter account secretly corresponded with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential election. The correspondence shows how WikiLeaks actively solicited the co-operation of Trump Jr., a campaign surrogate and advisor in the campaign of his father. WikiLeaks urged the Trump campaign to reject the results of the 2016 presidential election at a time when it looked as if the Trump campaign would lose. WikiLeaks suggested the Trump campaign leak Trump’s taxes to them. WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to share a WikiLeaks tweet with the quote “Can’t we just drone this guy?” which True Pundit alleged Hillary Clinton made about Assange. WikiLeaks also shared a link to a site that would help people to search through WikiLeaks documents. Trump Jr. shared both. After the election, WikiLeaks also requested that the president-elect push Australia to appoint Assange as ambassador to the US. Trump Jr. provided this correspondence to congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The secretive exchanges led to criticism of WikiLeaks by some former supporters. Assange had asserted the Clinton campaign was “constantly slandering” WikiLeaks of being a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source. Journalist Barrett Brown, a long-time defender of WikiLeaks, was exasperated that Assange was “complaining about ‘slander’ of being pro-Trump IN THE ACTUAL COURSE OF COLLABORATING WITH TRUMP”. He also wrote: “Was “Wikileaks staff” lying on Nov 10 2016 when they claimed “The allegations that we have colluded with Trump, or any other candidate for that matter, or with Russia, are just groundless and false”, or did Assange lie to them?”
Brown said Assange had acted “as a covert political operative”, thus betraying WikiLeaks’ focus on exposing “corporate and government wrongdoing”. He considered the latter to be “an appropriate thing to do”, but that “working with an authoritarian would-be leader to deceive the public is indefensible and disgusting”.