WHAT have we learned from WikiLeaks? Among other things, that it’s really bloody hard to kill a website.
Maybe even impossible.
What looks to be the biggest campaign in history to censor a single website has failed.
After a concerted, multinational effort to shut it down, WikiLeaks is still alive and kicking. In fact, it’s kicking even harder than before.
There are now more than 500 websites around the world â€” called “mirrors” â€” containing the secret US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
The whistleblower group says the mirrors “will make it impossible to ever fully remove Wikileaks from the internet”.
And you know what? It looks like they’re right.
The mirrors were created by members of the internet community in response to a campaign in recent days to shut WikiLeaks down.
It began last Thursday, when the group’s US website, wikileaks.org, stopped responding.
Amazon that day confirmed it had stopped hosting the site, after a plea from US Senator Joe Lieberman for organisations to cut ties with the group.
That wasn’t too much of a hurdle for WikiLeaks, which signed up with a new hosting company in France.
Tableau Software followed suit shortly afterwards by removing graphs hosted on its servers showing where the secret cables had originated and what they were classified.
Then, on Friday, the company that operated the website name wikileaks.org cut its ties as well â€“ effectively taking the group off the web.
But even that didn’t stop WikiLeaks for long.
A few hours later the group had registered a new website name, wikileaks.ch, in Switzerland.
On Saturday, PayPal said it had “permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks”, blocking financial transfers to the group.
Meanwhile, in France, Industry Minister Eric Besson began fighting to have WikiLeaks banned from the country. The company hosting the site, OVH, referred the matter to the courts.
“We have decided to ask a judge to rule on the legality or not of this site being on French territory,” said OVH managing director Octave Klaba.
Before a decision was made, the WikiLeaks website stopped responding yet again. There was speculation that OVH had switched its servers off, but it’s not clear what really happened.
The president of the Swiss Pirate Party, which was operating the wikileaks.ch website name, redirected traffic to another server in Sweden to fix the problem.
And it’s about here that WikiLeaks decided to fight back.
On Sunday, the group began calling to its followers on Twitter to sign up and “mirror” the website. By Monday morning, there were hundreds of them. Right now, there’s 507, all listed on wikileaks.ch.
News.com.au this morning tested a dozen of the mirrors, selected at random, to check they were active. 11 of the 12 were.
As well as the mirrors, the main site at wikileaks.ch is still active. It appears to be running off the server in Sweden, which has stayed online despite attacks.
The attacks made the website unresponsive for a short time overnight, but it seems to have recovered today. It’s not clear who is behind the attacks.
If the Swedish server does fall, WikiLeaks is likely to turn to another backup, or may even return to France. So far the courts have not told OVH they are unable to host the site, according to reports.
But while WikiLeaks has won the fight to stay online for the moment, it’s sure to face increasing pressure in coming days and weeks.
The whistleblower group has yet to publish the bulk of the diplomatic cables earning it the wrath of governments around the world. At the time of writing, only 913 of the 251,287 cables had been released.