WSJ: If you can't beat wikileaks, replace them

Love it or hate it, Wikileaks has become part of the international conversation and continues to make headlines on a regular basis, even in sources that tend to disapprove of founder Julian Assange. Given that there’s clearly a market and an appetite for hush-hush whistleblowing goodness, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Wall Street Journal is going to take the concept mainstream by launching a competing site of their own.

The Wall Street Journal has launched its own WikiLeaks-inspired whistleblowers’ site, SafeHouse.

Similar to WikiLeaks, SafeHouse allows whistleblowers to confidentially upload documents to the site. A senior Wall Street Journal editor will manage the standalone site, which is based on secure servers.

Robert Thomson, tech editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Journal, said in a statement on Thursday: “The Wall Street Journal is the world’s most trusted source of news, and SafeHouse will enable the collection of information and documents that could be used in the generation of trustworthy news stories.”

SafeHouse opened for submissions on Thursday. Whistleblowers can choose whether to send their contact details or to remain anonymous. Users can also request to “become a confidential source” of the paper, though this requires contact details.

I’m not sure how much of a flood of contributors they will get on this effort, given the rather careful wording they use regarding just how secret your identity will be.

They state that the Journal “reserve[s] the right to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities or to a requesting third party, without notice, in order to comply with any applicable laws and/or requests under legal process […]”.

By agreeing to the terms and conditions, whistleblowers agree “not to use SafeHouse for any unlawful purpose”. The US has consistently argued that the release of a tranche of top secret diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, and published by the Guardian and other newspapers, was illegal.

Obviously an elder, established property like the Wall Street Journal has no interest in finding themselves in a protracted battle with the Justice Department, so some caution on their part is understandable. But with the way they’re wording the agreement, it almost sounds as if it’s not exactly going to take orders handed down from the Supreme Court to make them give up your name. This could cool the enthusiasm of some leakers, particularly if they work for the government.

But, on the other hands, if the whistleblower is in the private sector and wants to spill the beans on some sort of pollution or employment beef – just for two examples – they might feel a little more comfortable sending their information to the Journal than to some kid’s secret hacker server in Finland. Much like the original Wikileaks, we’ll simply have to give it some time and see if they begin producing any scoops out of this.