August 25, 2011 / by Jeff

WikiLeaks uses Twitter to crowdsource latest releases

What to do when you have been given a plethora of official communiqués and you need to read each one of them to uncover a potential story?
The answer: crowdsource.
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks released a bumper crop of approximately 35,000 diplomatic cables between the U.S. and 20 other embassies and consulates.
The task of wading through them was daunting, yet by outsourcing this task to followers of WikiLeaks on Twitter, who collate their finds under the hash-tag #wlfind, new finds are gradually being broken via the micro-blogging site.
The list of contacts on WikiLeaks’ online data base shows messages between the UK, Austria, Brussels, Spain, a host of African nations, Vietnam, Iraq and Lebanon, to name a few.
So what are the advantages to crowd-sourcing tasks like this?
Obviously, systematically sorting through such a database has its challenges: for instance, where to start?
Is it better to sift through country by country, to gain an in depth insight into U.S. diplomatic relations with certain nations? While political observers may be interested in this type of information, many journalists need relevant stories and fast. In light of the current political situation in Libya, a topical search, which is permitted by the WikiLeaks database, might seem the best way to bring up a story that is obviously pertinent to current events.
Crowdsourcing eliminates such dilemmas: whilst there is no systematic approach and, theoretically, something could be missed, if enough people go over the files, statistically, most of the information should be covered.
Of course, another key advantage is that WikiLeaks doesn’t have to pay people to do this.
Crowdsourcing is a tool which is clearly fits the WikiLeaks philosophy; the defines itself as “a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public… at the forefront of anti-censorship”. Hence it makes sense that the information should be delivered directly into the hands of that same public, and then analysed by them.
Whether you agree with the motivation of WikiLeaks – which effectively encourages people to leak state secrets – or not, this crowd-sourcing effort really is an example of true democratization of information.
What do you think about WikiLeaks, heros or villains?
Posted by: Jeff Pulvino
Original Article By: Katherine Travers


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