WikiLeaks: Friend or Foe?


I asked one of my roommates what she thought of the controversial website this morning and she responded, “Wait, what’s WikiLeaks?” The site has become huge in the past few months, if not days. Yet, it has slipped past the radar of many educated college students. Even the majority of those that are aware of its existence seem to get confused when the specifics of the site are discussed. But, seeing the impact this site is having on the world, it is definitely something everyone should know about.

Below is a brief guide to WikiLeaks, jam-packed with helpful links to help you understand the goings on of the Internet’s most controversial site (so be sure to click away).

What is it?

The site itself began in 2006. Wikileaks has published classified and private documents, submitted by secret sources, from the contents of Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account to the Afghan War Diary, which documented the War in Afghanistan from 2004-2009.

WikiLeaks receives all of its information from “people who have access to controversial or classified documents, who either send them electronically or through the mail.” The editors of the site then determine what information is important or significant and publish it on the site.

Why is it controversial?

What should be kept secret and what should be made public? And, who is to determine the difference? Since the release of the Pentagon Papers in the ’70s, people have been asking that question.

The site doesn’t just publish U.S. documents, although the U.S. leaks have certainly garnered a ton of attention. WikiLeaks publishes secret information from all different countries. Their goal is to “[improve] transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations.”

Several days ago, WikiLeaks upped the ante of their website by announcing that they would publish classified U.S. diplomatic cables. The first of the documents have now begun to travel around the internet and to countless media outlets. And, the contents of the documents are definitely not going to help U.S. diplomatic relations.

What’s at risk?

“After more than eight years at war, how carefully are we even looking at Afghanistan?” asks The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson in a summer piece about WikiLeaks. Is WikiLeaks crossing lines and putting the U.S. in danger… or is it simply informing the citizens about goings-on that we deserve to be in the know of?
What do you think about WikiLeaks? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!


  1. Nadeen says:

    This is the first time i've heard of this website and frankly, i'm not impressed.
    There are so many elementary grammatical mistakes in the first few paragraphs of the 'About' page, I didnt bother reading the rest. Theres a reason why CNN, FOX, and other news broadcasting companies are so popular. Not only are they well accredited and respected, but they also have years of experience in how to present certain information to the public.

    1. Lauren - University of Michigan says:

      I think you're missing the point. Forget about the grammar and focus on the real issues: confidential government documents being exposed. What do you think about THAT aspect?

    2. Lola says:

      Did you really just say that FOX news is well accredited and respected?!??? BWAHAHA You don't deserve Wikileaks.

  2. Krissy says:

    I truly do not even understand how WikiLeaks can be a friend and not a foe. These documents are kept confidential for a reason, and I'm fine with that. I do not want to try to understand the intricacies of the inner workings of our government, and I don't think I should even be given the opportunity. I consider myself a pretty smart person (I'm in law school), but I am by no means smart enough to try to tackle the details of our government. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of people who want to do our country harm and ARE smart enough to take these documents, analyze them, find out crucial information that the government was keeping confidential for a reason and use it to their advantage to really hurt this country.
    I can understand how a lot of people may see confidential documents as a way that the government is hiding information from us, but can't everyone agree that it may be safer that way? As it is, terrorists and the like are exploiting our criminal justice system to attack us, but still get a fair trial. Why give them more of an upper leg?
    Maybe I'm jumping on just the title too hard, the article really did not make an argument for either side. It just makes me sad because College Candy used to be my favorite website when I was an undergrad, but it has gotten so liberal and far left (not to mention, kind of sloppy) that I have been reading less and less of its content, and am really starting to just use it for links to other sites.

  3. tissue says:

    Honestly, it surprised me how few people knew about Wikileaks and its purpose when I first asked people
    I find it interesting that some herald Assange for being a hero, while others are merciless in their criticisms. Personally, I find that while it is a noble cause: to create transparency between the government and the people, it also serves to harm many others.

    I think that in his quest to "liberate" the public, Assange did not think about those that are serving abroad, or serving in the secret service. He is putting them at risk all in the name of "public good." But who is to decide what is good or not? Also, who are those that are putting up the documents? The filter within WikiLeaks may also serve to put bias on certain countries and certain decisions. I find that dangerous and unfair.

    My friend hero-worships Assange for his vision, but I think that by leaking out confidential documents – he is really harming everyone.

  4. alexandra says:

    He should go to jail and spend the rest of his life there. As a previous poster said, things are kept confidential for a reason and I'm okay with that. I feel like he is little more than a kid who was treated poorly in high school and wants to be the one who gets the popular kids in trouble. He is incredibly selfish, and I am saying all of this with regard only to his leaking of important documents, ignoring for now the fact that he has assaulted and raped women (he is wanted in most of Europe for arrest). I love my country and savor my rights and there is nothing I hate more than someone who uses his rights to talk shit about the country that gave them to him.

  5. lacey says:

    Ive heard from my philosophy teacher that he used to be active duty military. If Im not mistaken, revealing classified information about the government would land him in jail. That little contract he signed when he joined made a pretty big threat about that… Im suprised the website hasnt been shut down.

  6. criolle johnny says:

    People have died as the result of his "giggle/snark/funny" leaks. If those people were members of your family or your military unit, you might have a different opinion. You might even be "merciless in your criticism" … or worse.

  7. Alison says:

    I'm all about "freedom of press" but certain things are confidential for a reason. Leaking these documents isn't helping anybody out and I'm disgusted that people would actually send confidential documents to a website designed to leak them. It's like Gossip Girl, but worse.

  8. Jessie says:

    "ignoring for now the fact that he has assaulted and raped women (he is wanted in most of Europe for arrest)." – Alexandra.

    He is wanted for something that is only a crime in Sweden, he is not charged with rape but something called "sex by surprise". (Which I think is failing to use a condom, but I could be wrong).

  9. Kilgo says:

    Wikileaks: Friend, Foe, or must be Fresh-man?

  10. luxdais says:

    i've never been to wikileaks. i just tried it and it says that it is unavailable. hmmm….

    1. sarah says:

      Here's a mirror to the site:

      The Guardian (UK) and the New York Times also have recaps of the most interesting cables, so you don't have to download it yourself.

  11. Manuel says:

    We (supposedly) live in a democratic society. If people in that society are going to make reasonable decisions about their future using democratic processes, then they need good information about what is actually going on. Knowing about the backroom dealings between government officials, corporate officials, lobbyists, what their relationships are crucial if we actually want to put people in positions of power that are actually going to work for our interests. The Iraq war is a case in point. The United States invaded another country, breaking international law, resulting in the deaths of of probably hundreds of thousands of people (, millions of refugees ( Would this kind of massacre have happened had the public known about the lies about weapons of mass destruction concocted by the Bush/Cheney gang? Would the US have invaded Iraq had the mainstream media not gleefully spread these lies across the landscape of American public opinion? Unlikely. If the public does not know what people in power are doing – bad things happen.

    We are trained to be apolitical, to focus more on Hollywood celebrities, how many orgasms we have, and how much Sarah Palin's daughter weighs, than we are to really understand how our political and economic systems work. We can understand how these things work – and it is in our interest to do so. Wikileaks, is one of many important tools available to us. It presents a powerful and necessary challenge to the delusion that we need to be kept in the dark for our own good, and it suggests a way towards a truly democratic future. People can and should know what powerful institutions do. Who has been hurt by these latest leaks? Mostly the egos of politicians, dictators, bureaucrats – but the result has been a greater awareness of the types of power plays and backroom deals that go on in the culture of US diplomacy. This awareness makes it much easier to shape our governing institutions to the dictates of popular will – something, presumably, we all want, if we are interested in democracy.

  12. […] is brilliant.  A thirty nine-years-old, Assange is not only the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks (a site that leaks private government documents), but also a journalist, computer programmer, and passionate advocate of freedom of the press. […]

  13. Happy Harry says:

    To all i've seen, and read.. (til now..) this is the first time i've heard alleged any posts have hurt anyone.. if you wish to question on the basis of loss of life.. would it not be congruent to then also raise the question then about loss of life from going to i dunno.. war? In an ideal bubble world perhaps wiki may be irrelevant.. but in the real world power corrupts.. and those with the power to make these decisions attained this priviledge of responsibility on the basis that they would use it with.. responsibility. And when that responsibility is abused and used as power.. I believe creates the necessity for the spotlight to come on. When responsibility is abused as power.. the path to solution lies in truth.. and awareness of it. Could the misuse of a Wikileaks be disasterous? On a lighter scale? I think, no more so than any other online scam, be it millions locked away in a remote bank account waiting for someone to spend money first to acquire it – or perhaps the barrage of "you have been selected as our millionth hit on the site to win a free cell phone (when paid plan purchased) or the like.. on a harder scale? Certainly no worse than going to war on the premise of false information.

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