Leaktivism and its discontents

Authored by: Athina Karatzogianni

The Routledge Companion To Media And Activism

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138202030
eBook ISBN: 9781315475059
Adobe ISBN:


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With the appearance of Anonymous and WikiLeaks from 2006 onwards, the past decade has witnessed the unstoppable acceleration and proliferation of what has been as a form of whistleblowing plugged straight into twenty-first century, information-age global politics: what Micah White (2016) dubbed ‘leaktivism’ and Gabriella Coleman (2017) called ‘the public interest hack (PIH)’. Between 2015 and 2017, the DNC Leaks, DCLeaks, and the Panama Leaks follow the trend set by WikiLeaks (Brevini et al. 2017) to global prominence in 2010, and Edward Snowden (2013) as significant examples of what is fast becoming the decade of ‘leaktivism’. In normative terms, the ‘internet’ is used to obtain, leak and spread confidential documents with political ramifications, with the aim to expose corruption, wrongdoing and inequality, potentially enhancing accountability in the democratic process, through greater transparency. Coleman provides a typology and then an excellent brief genealogy of this in ‘The Public Interest Hack’ (2017) in the Hacks, Leaks and Breaches issue she co-edited with Christopher Kelty for the journal LIMN, exploring ‘how are hacks, leaks and breaches transforming our world, creating new collectives, and changing our understanding of security and politics’ (Coleman & Kelty 2017).

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