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Offline Riney

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Group Launches to Encourage Transparency & Aggressive Journalism, Help WikiLeaks Survive Blockade
By: Kevin Gosztola Sunday December 16, 2012 7:18 pm

A foundation dedicated to promoting and funding aggressive journalism and media organizations that push for transparency and accountability in government is launching on Monday.

Called the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), it hopes to help organizations like WikiLeaks combat censorship and even prevent the watering down of coverage because of corporate or government pressures.

The organization is co-founded by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and John Perry Barlow, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead who co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Rainey Reitman, a founder and steering committee member for the Bradley Manning Support Network, and Trevor Timm, who is a writer and activist for EFF.

Also on the Board of Directors is writer Glenn Greenwald, actor John Cusack, Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press, Josh Stearns, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and Xeni Jardin, founding partner and co-editor of Boing Boing.

Reitman shared how the idea had come from something that had been discussed for months. There was a “real sense that the blockade on WikiLeaks was censorship of not just of WikiLeaks but actually of the people who wanted to express their opinions by making donations.” It was a suppression of “their rights to free speech,” as well.

FPF decided to do something that would empower people to do something that could keep WikiLeaks operational while also inspiring a new generation of WikiLeaks-like organizations that would be resistant to government and corporate pressures.

The way FPF intends to encourage and help foster aggressive and independent journalism is by “bundling” organizations that people can support through donations. A person can split their donation however they want among the four organizations. A new set of organizations (or sometimes individuals) will be chosen every two months.

For the first months of operation, FPF intends to urge people to donate to WikiLeaks, MuckRock, an organization that makes it easy for individuals and organizations to submit FOIA requests, the National Security Archive, an investigative journalism center that maintains a library of declassified government documents, and The Uptake, a media group that encourages democracy and transparency.

The criteria for choosing, according to FPF, will be based upon a “record of engaging in transparency journalism or supporting it in a material way,” including supporting whistleblowers; whether the organization has a “public interest agenda”; whether the organization or individual is under attack for “engaging in transparency journalism”; or whether the organization or individual needs support because of obstacles they are experiencing, which are preventing them from gaining support on their own.

Timm said FPF wants to be a “Red Cross for journalism.” If someone’s in trouble, we want to be able to come save them.

While the members of the Board of Directors are dedicated to keeping WikiLeaks alive and functioning, FPF is not being started to solely support WikiLeaks. In fact, FPF is being launched because those involved recognize the need for more organizations like WikiLeaks to be functioning in the world.

“We want to encourage other developers to start working on WikiLeaks-like submission systems,” Timm declared.

Classification and secrecy is at an all-time high. Whistleblowers need to be protected. The right to publish has come under attack and needs to be preserved. As Timm stated, the foundation hopes to demonstrate “journalism and publishing information, whether public information, is American as apple pie.”

Stearns explained he got involved in this project because he sees it being focused on how “support structures” can be built for independent and nonprofit journalism.

It aims to focus on “supporting the way news happens right now.” Sometimes supporting independent journalism or critical transparency journalism will mean supporting more than just “straight up journalism organizations.” Sometimes it will require encouraging the funding of organizations committed to legal defense, analyzing government data, promoting transparency in government or supporting whistleblowers.

“There is a range of threats facing journalism in the digital age whether it be threats to sources or whistleblowers, threats to journalists on the frontlines of protests or threats from the IRS trying to block journalist organizations from getting their nonprofit status and making them wait a year or two years,” explained Stearns.

Not being able to get nonprofit status is a “kind of financial blockade” in and of itself. It means being blocked from applying for grants and not being able to accept tax-deductible donations.

The foundation overwhelmingly recognizes that “transparency journalism—from the publishing of the Pentagon Papers and exposing Watergate, to uncovering the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and CIA secret prisons” takes investment in organizations or groups that will focus their attention and doggedly report on these key stories. It also understands that national security journalism is threatened in many ways and there needs to be a group that steps up to push back against this climate of fear in Washington that is chilling potential sources from speaking out because they are afraid of prosecution or retaliation or, in the case of journalists, worried access to power will be lost.

The success of FPF will be determined by how they are able to foster and grow an array of organizations that promote transparency and aggressive journalism. It will depend on the proliferation of other organizations like WikiLeaks—or like the National Security Archive, Muck Rock or The Uptake.

The world has seen what has happened to WikiLeaks as it has been targeted by the United States government, as its editor-in-chief Julian Assange and staff have come under a wide investigation by the Justice Department, as has been unable to accept donations because payment providers will not process the donations, as it has faced the obstacle of rebuilding trust in the organization so potential sources will submit information for publishing and as it has struggled to rebuild a submissions system that can guarantee those who submit information protection. An organization like WikiLeaks cannot experience this and expect to be sustainable, but if there are more organizations out there trying to do what WikiLeaks tries to do, it may make the kind of transparency and aggressive journalism WikiLeaks promotes harder for the US government to suppress.


An additional note: Reitman mentioned FPF intends to “protect the privacy of the people who are donating” by not keeping any records that show what individuals donated to WikiLeaks in the past.

“There are limits to what we can do because when you make a payment, your payment provider is going to have record,” she said. In FPF’s privacy policy, they outline how they intend to “limit how much data” collected on a person. When a person makes a donation, they will note the donation was made and add it to their records of how much money is going to WikiLeaks, but the records will obscure who donated so if someone from the government comes asking for any reason they will not have that information to give out. This should give individuals wanting to donate to WikiLeaks some privacy and security in knowing that they are unlikely to become a target for supporting WikiLeaks. (And this will be the protocol for donations to all organizations FPF encourages people to help fund.)


WikiLeaks statement on the launch of the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

…Over the last two years the blockade has stopped 95 per cent of contributions to WikiLeaks, running primary cash reserves down from more than a million dollars in 2010 to under a thousand dollars, as of December 2012. Only an aggressive attack against the blockade will permit WikiLeaks to continue publishing through 2013.

The new initiative, combined with a recent victory in Germany, means contributions to WikiLeaks now have tax-deductible status throughout the United States and Europe.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ publisher, said: “We’ve fought this immoral blockade for two long years. We smashed it in the courts. We smashed it in the Treasury. We smashed it in France. We smashed it in Germany. And now, with strong and generous friends who still believe in First Amendment rights, we’re going to smash it in the United States as well.”…

…John Perry Barlow, a board member of the new Foundation, says the initiative aims to achieve more than just crowd-sourced fundraising: “We hope it makes a moral argument against these sorts of actions. But it could also be the basis of a legal challenge. We now have private organizations with the ability to stifle free expression. These companies have no bill of rights that applies to their action – they only have terms of service.”

The WikiLeaks banking blockade showed how devastating such extra-judicial measures can be for not-for-profit investigative journalism and free press organizations. Initiatives such as the Freedom of the Press Foundation are vital to sustain a truly independent free press…

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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear

Offline Riney

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Re: Group Launches to Encourage Transparency & Aggressive Journalism,...
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 14:26:32 PM »
a little more on this subject...

Daniel Ellsberg And Free Speech Advocates Create Fund To Stop WikiLeaks-Style Payment Blockades
Security | 12/17/2012 @ 12:02AM
Andy Greenberg, Forbes Staff

Daniel Ellsberg, the famed Pentagon whistleblower who will serve on the Freedom of the Press Foundation's board.

When Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others abruptly cut off all payments to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks last year, they offered a lesson in how financial giants can use their purse strings to choke controversial media. Now Daniel Ellsberg and a group of digital liberties advocates hope to prevent that kind of financial blockade on information from ever occurring again.

On Monday, Ellsberg and a group of staffers from the digital-rights-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) plan to announce the creation of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an independent organization aimed at raising money and channeling it to the sort of edgy media groups that might suffer from a WikiLeaks-style embargo–including WikiLeaks itself.

“We’re trying to crowd-fund the right to know,” says John Perry Barlow, the co-founder of the EFF, a former Grateful Dead lyricist and free speech advocate who will serve on the board of the Foundation. “This isn’t just a way to support WikiLeaks. It’s a way to support a principle… We feel there will be more groups like WikiLeaks, and we want to inspire them as quickly as possible, because there’s a lot the public needs to know.”

On the Foundation’s website, any user will be able to make a donation through an encrypted form, specifying which organization under the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s umbrella will receive the funds. By mixing groups together under its banner, the Foundation hopes to make it more difficult for funding to be cut off to any one of them, and to also offer donors a way to make a contribution to a controversial group like WikiLeaks without publicly revealing that they’ve done so.

Barlow and fellow EFF staffers reached out to Daniel Ellsberg more than a year ago with the idea of creating that financial proxy for media groups and donors, and the Ellsberg immediately offered his support.

“A lot of people would rightly be hesitant to go on record sending money to WikiLeaks because they think they could be questioned, blacklisted or prosecuted,” says Ellsberg, citing politicians like Joe Biden and Sarah Palin that have compared WikiLeaks at times to a terrorist organization. “With this the individual will have his or her anonymity preserved. It’s like WikiLeaks itself. WikiLeaks facilitated anonymous leaking. This is to facilitate anonymous donations.”

Initially, the Freedom of the Press Foundation will funnel donations to four groups: WikiLeaks, the investigative journalism outfits Muckrock and the National Security Archives, and the citizen journalism group UpTake. But the group’s executive director Trevor Timm says more organizations will be added over time. “Ultimately we’d like to have ten organizations that have anonymous submissions systems, and ten organizations lik Muckrock and ten like Pro Publica, for instance,” he says. “There’s no magic bullet for solving the problem of government secrecy, so we want to tackle it with death by a thousand cuts.”

Ellsberg and Barlow aren’t the only big names involved with the group: Its board will also include Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin, and MacArthur-award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras.

WikiLeaks has been suffering financially for nearly two years since Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, PayPal, and Western Union all stopped processing payments to the group in response to its announcement that it would release a quarter million secret State Department cables. Assange has said that 95% of the group’s funding dried up as a result, and it has yet to publish documents with the same impact as those it released in 2010, or even to rebuild its anonymous submissions system that went offline late that year.

Despite finding a workaround to receive funds through the French non-profit Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality in July, the group has continued to struggle to raise cash. In October it added an interstitial fundraising page to the site when users click on any of its leaked documents, a move that many saw as a “paywall” that fundamentally contradicted its idea of free information.

Ellsberg says he hopes the Foundation can put WikiLeaks back on its feet. “We’re definitely trying to resuscitate WikiLeaks, and I think WikiLeaks will be back in action,” says Ellsberg.

But he says it’s just as important to foster the movement of newborn leak sites that seemed to promise a revitalized transparency movement in 2011–but have largely flopped. “We’re also emphasizing that we’d like other organizations to furnish the same kind of capability, and that’s more likely to happen when they won’t be strangled at birth,” Ellsberg says.

He points to other WikiLeaks-like groups on his radar including the Iceland-based Associated Whistleblower’s Press, and the German group OpenLeaks. The latter was founded by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former collaborator with Assange who eventually left the group with several other WikiLeakers and became one of Assange’s most bitter rivals. But even OpenLeaks has yet to publish any material and even seems to have taken its website offline.

“Let a thousand flowers bloom,” says Ellsberg. “They’d be a candidate for help on this too, whether Julian Assange likes it or not.”

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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear