A Montreal computer science student and self-styled internet freedom advocate is hosting a mirror website that duplicates the material no longer available on WikiLeaks.com, as part of the global efforts to keep the whistleblower site alive.
Concordia University student Nadim Kobeissi decided to mirror the controversial website because of his staunch belief in the freedom of information.
|Listen to CBC host Mike Finnerty's conversation with Nadim Kobeissi here.|
"This is a fight for civil liberties," Kobeissi told CBC News on Wednesday. "What we're seeing is an attempt to censor the internet, which is completely unacceptable."
WikiLeaks has released hundreds of classified U.S. government cables and correspondence in recent weeks. The documents, which were published in co-operation with several mainstream media outlets, included behind-the-scenes conversations between diplomats who often paint unflattering portraits of foreign leaders.
Strategic energy infrastructure in several G8 countries has also been identified in the cables.
Governments around the world have vigorously condemned the release of the cables as irresponsible, dangerous and a threat to security.
Mirror sites show internet's true spirit
The official WikiLeaks.com site was taken down after an initial batch of cables was released and is now available at the IP. address 18.104.22.168 or on any of the more than 1,200 mirror sites that have cropped up. Social media tools such as Twitter have helped redirect supporters to the mirror sites, which duplicate WikiLeaks material.
WikiLeaks supporters say the site is providing an essential public service that will ultimately hold governments accountable for their policies and decisions.
'The internet has an unprecedented potential to be a place where censorship is impossible, where freedom of speech is an imperative.' —Nadim Kobeissi, computer science student
That's why Kobeissi says he decided to host a mirror site.
"We can really prove a point by mirroring the content that's being censored, because that shows how the internet has been built," he said. "That shows that censorship is impossible on the internet and why the internet is so beautiful."
The WikiLeaks saga is a pivotal event in the world wide web's history and speaks to the internet's power, Kobeissi said.
"What we're seeing right now is the first real information war involving the internet," he said. "The internet has an unprecedented potential to be a place where censorship is impossible, where freedom of speech is an imperative."
WikiLeaks is believed to be in possession of 250,000 classified U.S. State Department cables but has only released about 1,000 of them so far after consulting with journalists from the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel, who advised the site on which cables to publish and which details to remove.
Backlash against companies that cut off WikiLeaks
The organization is also dealing with the fallout from the criminal charges laid against its co-founder, Julian Assange. Assange is in a U.K. prison facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. Assange is also being investigated by American authorities on potential espionage charges.
Several companies have taken steps to cut off their co-operation with WikiLeaks — some after pressure from the U.S. government. The web hosting arm of Amazon, Amazon Web Services, last week kicked the site off its servers. Internet payment site PayPal followed suit and suspended WikiLeaks's account, as did Visa and MasterCard, making donation payments to WikiLeaks with those credit cards impossible.
Some of the sites have suffered a backlash from WikiLeaks supporters as a result of their actions. MasterCard on Wednesday reported severe technical difficulties on its own website, believed to be the work of "hacktivists" trying to protect WikiLeaks.
The whistleblower organization came to mainstream attention last spring when it started leaking classified U.S. army documents from Iraq and Afghanistan. In mid-fall, the site started dispatching diplomatic cables that have embarrassed elected leaders around the world.