For a period of time in the 2000s and 2010s, WikiLeaks was a name synonymous with whistleblowing. The non-profit organization’s website was the place on the internet for information that someone, somewhere didn’t want you to see. But now, much of that information appears to have vanished. WikiLeaks’ website is full of broken pages, error notices, and a noticeable dearth of the documents it once held—as first reported by the Daily Dot and confirmed by Gizmodo.
Of the 65 internal links listed on the site’s central “Leaks” page, 20 were broken or led to error pages, according to Gizmodo’s assessment at the time of writing. The organization claimed, on its 10th anniversary, that it had released 10 million documents onto the internet. However, only around 3,000 were still available on the site this week, according to Daily Dot.
Gizmodo was unable to replicate Daily Dot’s exact analysis, in part because of what links and pages on the WikiLeaks site do work seems to shift frequently. One moment, a file will be viewable and downloadable, and the next it will turn into a “502 Bad Gateway” error. Although I was able to access the WikiLeaks home page on my first try, another of my colleagues encountered a “404 Page Not Found” just trying to get the main landing page to load. Regardless of the precise number of disappeared documents though, it is clear that links which once led to large caches of downloadable information now lead nowhere.
Additional issues on the site include a non-functional search bar, and a broken whistleblower submission page. The submission portal that WikiLeaks shared for would-be-whistleblowers back in July never worked—even though it was meant to replace an already non-functional portal, according to a previous report from the Daily Dot.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is currently facing extradition to the US from the United Kingdom. Earlier this year, the UK government approved the US’s request that Assange be sent stateside over espionage charges. He responded by appealing the extradition approval from London, where he’s been held in a high-security prison since 2019. Prior to his 2019 UK arresthe lived for about seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange’s ongoing legal struggles are likely part of WikiLeak’s disintegration, but they don’t explain everything about the site’s most recent decline. In 2018, Ecuador cut off the international fugitive’s internet access, and Assange appointed Kristinn Hrafnsson to take over his position as editor-in-chief. Since, the site slowed down on posting new leaks, and seems to have shared its last collection of previously inaccessible documents in 2019 (its 2021 “Intolerance Network” post was a compilation of already publicly available documents).
Yet whatever problems the site and non-profit have been reckoning with over the past few years appear to have multiplied this month. WikiLeaks’ homepage has been down because of server errors more often in Nov. 2022 than any other time in the past 12 years, based on the Wayback Machine’s archive of data.
Additionally, sometime between Nov. 10 and Nov. 21, Defend WikiLeaks, a site once dedicated to fundraising for Assange’s legal fees and advocating for his release, was usurped by a Vietnamese sports blog and/or a Japanese fashion blog. For a time, the same Japanese blog page showed up at the URL for the Courage Foundation—a related whistleblower fundraising site, as pointed out by the Daily Dot.
In contrast, WikiLeak’s Twitter page remains very active, mostly tweeting out posts in support of Assange. Gizmodo reached out to WikiLeaks’ Twitter via DMs to get more information about the organization’s website, but the account holder did not immediately respond.
WikiLeaks has often operated in a morally dubious, sometimes outright harmful way—posting things like the social security numbers of innocent political donors or the names and details of thousands of Afghani civilians. The organization has promoted conspiracy theories, like the Pizzagate debacle that ended in an armed assailant entering a Washington DC restaurant.
But the site has also played host to some of the biggest, most impactful reveals of the past 15 years. Through WikiLeaks, we have evidence of extrajudicial military murder of journalists in Baghdad. The public knows much more about those who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, in part because of the platform. If WikiLeaks fades off the internet for good, without explanation, a piece of history will have gone missing.