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Wikileaks To Sell Hugo Chavez' Email 313

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-much-to-look-through-his-garbage dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Wikileaks seems to be a bit hard-up for cash, so they're trying a little experiment. They plan to auction off an archive with three years worth of Hugo Chavez' email. The winner will get a period of embargoed access to break any stories they can find in the files, while Wikileaks will later publish the archive in full. Wikileaks plans to use the profits for their legal defense fund, but they may run into trouble because most reputable news outlets have policies against paying sources."
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Wikileaks To Sell Hugo Chavez' Email

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:35AM (#24776627)

    most reputable news outlets have policies against paying sources

    Then mabye someone else will buy it and break stories?

  • Suicide. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:37AM (#24776637)

    This stunt will come back to haunt them.

  • by Tom (822) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:48AM (#24776699) Homepage Journal

    Because you don't want incentives for sources to create stories (or forgeries).

  • by nietsch (112711) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:48AM (#24776701) Homepage Journal

    They are not doing this to scrape some money together. There is some kind of paradox that newspapers are less interested to invest time if the sources are there for any competitor to see. The free availability makes the perceived value less/zero. So by giving exclusive access to an interested outlet, they are guaranteed a better exposure then when they just would give it to all takers for free.

  • Re:Suicide. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:51AM (#24776713)

    This stunt will come back to haunt them.

    I agree. If I was an existing source for wiki leaks, then I would stop giving them free information -- I would want to get paid for it. Same goes if I was donating them free hardware and free bandwidth. This may be just an experiment, but it's going to completely change the way people perceive wiki leaks from now on. Once you sell out, you can never go back.

  • by Swizec (978239) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:56AM (#24776747) Homepage
    They may not want incentives for sources to create stories, but why then are reporters paid? They create stories, "spin" them I believe is the term they use, all the time and we love 'em for it.
  • by dintech (998802) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:57AM (#24776751)
    Also, there are plenty of unreputable newspapers out there too...
  • by Korey Kaczor (1345661) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:02AM (#24776791)

    Is this money going to pay for wikileaks's legal bills, or for the site owners' new porshe? Think about it. Either wikileaks sinks from being unable to defend themselves in court, or find themselves a way to pay for their lawyers and other fees.

  • Re:Suicide. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NorQue (1000887) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:10AM (#24776825)
    And I hope it shuts them down. Seriously, I'm all for the idea behind Wikileaks... but *selling* your information to the highest bidder? This is about as diametral to informing the public as it gets! This is moral bankruptcy for them, IMHO.
  • by Swizec (978239) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:10AM (#24776827) Homepage
    That's like saying politicians don't lie.

    Any story can be written so it comes out meaning something completely different to what really happens even if what you write isn't a lie per se.
  • by stephanruby (542433) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:19AM (#24776871)

    I guess the difference is that a photographer creates the photograph, but how is this different to paying for, say, the Hitler Diaries?

    Let me see:

    Hitler is dead. Hitler's Estate can not claim copyright ownership. Hitler's rights have expired. Hitler's diaries are much more difficult to tamper with than copied email records. Conversely, Hitler's diaries are probably much easier to authenticate than electronic email records. And contrary to what the CIA wants us to believe -- Hugo Chavez is not Hitler.

    And besides, wikileaks doesn't claim to have Hugo Chavez's email records, they claim to have the email records of an unspecified "top aide" of Hugo Chavez. And here in the United States, it's not the top aides that leak the information (unless they sell the information themselves for lucrative book deals, or unless it's a careful manufactured fake leak), it's our own President himself who doesn't know the difference between whitehouse.org and whitehouse.gov when emailing his staff.

  • by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:23AM (#24776889)
    Then mabye someone else will buy it and break stories?

    There are plenty of disreputable news sources around, but would their readership be interested in Hugo Chavez's email? I can't see the average Sun reader caring too much. Unless some of the emails were sexually explicit and addressed to a former Big Brother contestant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:41AM (#24776957)

    Successful blackmail in that case, I guess.

  • Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:03AM (#24777041)
    For a site that's supposed to be about promoting openness and moral conduct this is an incredibly immoral move.

    'victims' of leaks will not get a chance to respond or refute big stories before they hit the front pages. The site wants no accountability for the information it provides whilst at the same time wanting to reap all the benefits that posting false informaiton can bring.

    They may bring in more money but they're leaving themselves open for far worse than lawsuits. They're leaving themselves open to real criminal charges. The second money becomes involved, it can easily become blackmail.

    "we have an email saying you did something naughty. If you don't want the press to get it before you can find out if the email is true or not or you want to pre-empt it, just make sure you outbid all the other newspapers"

    I don't know what country they're based in but that kind of thing will wind up in a criminal court with the site owners facing years in prison.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:04AM (#24777047)
    The most likely buyers will be the victims of the leaks. Yay for disguised blackmail!
  • Bollocks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:11AM (#24777081)

    "Ethics are based on the concepts of right and wrong. Because there is no right or wrong ethics can not exist."

    Where'd you read that, Nihilism For Dummies? Of course right and wrong and hence ethics exist - in as much as any human mental construct can exist. If you deny that you might as well say that *you* don't exist since you're simply the end result of your brains functioning.

    Anyway , your sort of moral relativism has been used to excuse many evil deeds so don't expect many people to share your point of view.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:23AM (#24777133)

    Why not? Those diaries were an incredible hit, pushed the sales of the "Stern" by thousands and didn't really have any negative impact for them when the hoax became public. A lot of people were actually angry that they stopped the series, despite it being fake.

    People don't care whether a story is real or not. Whether a story is interesting and entertaining matters.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:44AM (#24777267) Journal

    Well, that's what bothers me the most: that it's essentially an invitation for anyone, the less reputable and scrupled the better, to use those for a fishing expedition.

    Now I'm all for leaks which actually prove _some_ kind of breech of law, contract, or such. You know, take one or two emails out of there that prove Chavez has done anything illegal, and publish or sell only those.

    Basically sorta how using a quote from a book to make a point is fair use, but "quoting" the whole book is breech of copyright law.

    (And if you think that that's a bad analogy, no, it's not even just an analogy: everything you write, even emails, is automatically copyrighted by you. So essentially they're selling something wholesale, on which that guy and everyone who's ever sent him an email, has a copyright.)

    But here you don't even know if there's any incriminating stuff at all in those emails. It's just an invitation to buy them and see if you can find something you can mis-use. Or to put it even better: it's not even selling some newsworthy story, it's just selling someone else's privacy. No more, no less. Maybe incidentally you can find some story material by trawling through his private correspondence, or maybe not, but at the end of the day what remains is that you paid to rape someone's privacy.

    And, yeah, it doesn't matter if you're even a reputable news outlet or a news outlet at all. Conceivably even some spammer could buy them to harvest all email addresses in there. Or someone could buy them and see if they can find any blackmail material in there. Maybe not even as much against Chavez, as against some random politician who's mentioned taking a vacation for some medical condition in an email to Chavez. Or anything else.

    I don't know... it seems an absolute low. It seems like the kind of thing only a complete scumbag would even think about doing.

  • by damburger (981828) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @07:57AM (#24777341)
    Have you read any of our newspapers recently?
  • by fmoliveira (979051) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:06AM (#24777403)
    And why a site like this have to be run in the USA? They could even drop these documents in a file sharing network.
  • Truth and Honesty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martyb (196687) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:09AM (#24777431)

    Any story can be written so it comes out meaning something completely different to what really happens even if what you write isn't a lie per se.

    Agreed. Slightly OT, but I'd like to elaborate on what you wrote; it reminds me of a definition I'd heard:

    Honesty: The absence of the intent to deceive.

    I can be utterly truthful but still be dishonest. For example:

    "Sorry I'm late getting to work, boss. I'm not feeling well. You know there's some kind of nasty bug going around."

    One would be excused for THINKING I had some kind of "nasty bug", but that WAS NOT stated. A hangover from heavy and late drinking the night before could also be covered by this example. So, just because each sentence in the example was *true* does not mean that the entire comment was *honest*.

  • by Vexorian (959249) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:21AM (#24777553)
    So, even though Chavez is... well, Chavez, I think your emails are... well, private. I just don't get why would wikileaks do this. Think of this : They will first sell Chavez' email then what would stop them to sell yours? Perhaps you are just a geek now, but who knows where life is going to place you later?

    Even if it was all right to publicize someone's email, it would still really go against' Wikileaks' ways to actually sell it, this makes no sense.

    This is ridiculous, wikileaks

  • by jav1231 (539129) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:25AM (#24777599)
    You're high. Dan Rather? Jason Blair? Big Media is essentially a spin factory these days. We have troops coming back from Iraq and hardly recognizing what they're seeing on the news passing for "war coverage." Yet, we're formulating our opinions on the war based on that coverage. Hmmm...
    As for Chavez, I could care less what becomes of it. He's a piece of shit.
  • by bencollier (1156337) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:29AM (#24777645) Homepage
    I can't for a moment imagine that Wikileaks would have dared try this if this was email from the US President. As much as they've avoided the courts in the past (and with good reason), trying this with a blanket dump of US government email would have them shut down in a flash, surely? Or have I missed them doing this already. In any case, they can get away with selling the private email of Hugo Chavez because, well, he's not exactly a personal friend of a lot of Western governments. This smacks of hypocrisy. Ethically and reasonably, they've not got a leg to stand on. Moreover, it's got to be completely illegal. Leaking important information is one thing, selling someone's recent correspondence is another. What's to stop them selling *your* email?
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:30AM (#24777651) Journal

    (And if you think that that's a bad analogy, no, it's not even just an analogy: everything you write, even emails, is automatically copyrighted by you. So essentially they're selling something wholesale, on which that guy and everyone who's ever sent him an email, has a copyright.)

    Funny, I didn't realize Venezuela's copyright laws worked in exactly the same way as the U.S's.

    Perhaps you'd like to use a source [wipo.int] to substantiate that claim?

    Sorry to give you a hard time about it, but I think it's very important for people to realize that copyright law is not the same throughout the entire world.

  • Sure the do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:33AM (#24777683) Homepage

    Wikileaks plans to use the profits for their legal defense fund, but they may run into trouble because most reputable news outlets have policies against paying sources.

    Most "reputable" news outlets have policies against admitting that they pay sources.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:34AM (#24777687)

    "Wikileaks...may run into trouble because most reputable news outlets have policies against paying sources."

    A cynic might suggest that the policies of "reputable news media" have more to do with refusing to admit they pay sources than with what actually happens behind closed doors.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @08:55AM (#24777907) Homepage

    This is not an "individual". this is a head of state and a key
    member of a government. "privacy" doesn't enter into it. His
    communications need to be documented for tranparency of
    governance and historical and archival purposes.

    We would do the same thing to Bush if we could.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @09:05AM (#24778029)

    stop running decades-old innuendo about John McCain and start running the current stories about John Edwards real sexual affairs and resulting love child

    Well, the love child allegations is still just a good guess rather than an actual fact, as the mother's refusal to even ask for a parental test is well, suspicious. However, according to both parties, the 'timing' isn't right, so it's not a confirmed fact. What is a fact, is that McCain is the Republican Presidential Candidate for 2008 (well, technically presumptive), and John Edwards is a private citizen, who made a failed attempt at the White House, twice, and now seems to be making an attempt at staying out of the media. Other than one (that I know of) interview directly addressing the scandal, he has stayed away from the spotlight. Assuming that he hasn't committed any illegal acts, someone who wants peace and keeps to themselves, should have it. However the payments that were made to the woman in question, well, that might be the real scandal, leave the kid out of it. Frankly, I've never liked Edwards much as a candidate anyways, too 'plastic' for me; if you were going to do a cartoon of a 'generic president' he'd make a good model. Personally, I think that it was his wife who was the real political genius.

    John McCain on the other hand is running for President, and isn't afraid to make an assertion, in person or by proxy against his opponent, unfortunately continuing the same slanderous politics which he had previous decried. Seeing him get pounded in the press is just an unfortunate part of the game he's playing.

  • by Tom (822) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @09:16AM (#24778167) Homepage Journal

    Yet, we're formulating our opinions on the war based on that coverage. Hmmm...
    As for Chavez, I could care less what becomes of it. He's a piece of shit.

    And you're formulating your opinion on Chavez based on what ? ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @09:47AM (#24778529)

    Journalists don't create stories, they document existing events.

    I'm sorry, but that's just naive.

    Yes, but it's just as naive to ascribe journalistic behaviour to tardmemes like "the liberal media" the "zionist conspiracy" or (/. favorite) "mainstream media bias".

    Journalists do what they do for one of two reasons: self-glorification (such as Dan Rather) or to sell papers. The big boys who own the papers don't give a damn how you vote or how you perceive events unless it affects their bottom line; they can buy and sell congressmen of either party like bars of soap. If it doesn't increase or at least maintain circulation, they don't print it. This manifests differently in channels that survive on pure advertisement revenue as compared to media that run on subscription income, but it's the same basic impulse.

    With the exception of media that are entirely supported by a single outside source (such as the Reverend Moon, Lord of Heaven and America) all media must generate income to survive. There are a limited number of eyeballs to saturate and the media that cannot compete (again excepting a few anomalies like Moon and Xenu) fail in accordance with Darwin's model.

    What you buy determines what they sell. Consumers create the news! Right now, the consumers are buying Obama, and McCain is staying on the shelf. It's not a conspiracy - or if it is, you're a member of it.

  • by Disfnord (1077111) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:41AM (#24779317) Homepage

    hopefully this will open your eyes to the fact that there are people in the "news" that have clear agendas and aren't above creating stories where none exist in order to influence you. Not to mention those who write with bias.

    Wait, are you talking about Dan Rather or Right-wing blogs?

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <.gro.todhsals. .ta. .deteled.> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:47AM (#24779391)

    Him doing something wrong does not make you doing it right.

    Try explaining to the police: "That murderer that flew from the jail... I shot him..."
    You will go to jail for murder too.

  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @11:16AM (#24779829)

    Yeesh... someone likes their right-wing blogs.

    I understand your point and I agree that while some event might be newsworthy and even interesting, with a little tweak here or a little adjustment there, it could be stupendous and earth-shaking news. The temptation is too great for some journalists to bear.

    But I hardly think one side of the political spectrum has a corner on the market.

  • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @11:21AM (#24779905)

    Thats simple were they from a governmental mailserver or not?

  • by discogravy (455376) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @12:33PM (#24780899) Homepage
    did he at least fill up the tank? I mean, he's got all that cheap gas...
  • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @12:35PM (#24780935)

    And, on the other side, having any aspects of governance that could be made arbitrarily secret (because those governing decide what does and what does not infringe on their "privacy") is oh so conductive to preventing back-room machinations involving CEOs of mega-corporate friends of the politicians and other the like-minded cash-bearing chums, meetings in, say, the White House with, say, the Vice President, where, completely hypothetically, plans of invasions of foreign lands aimed at securing resources, say, oil, which somehow ended up under the sand owned by some undeserving brown-skinned "barbarians" are made. It also completely prevents authoritarian sociopaths with God complexes, who "just know better then you what us good for you and you do not need to know what it is for reasons of 'state security' and that is why you are on a secret no-fly list" from participating, no?

    Moreover, making arbitrary government communications secret is well known to encourage honest and corruption-free government operations, leading to senior policy makers making well considered decisions in the best interests of those the government is supposed to represent and no possibility whatsoever of such a scenario aiding aiding decision making for their personal gain, that of their buddies, or for their most "charming" lobbyists, certainly?

    Look, between the two "evils" of utterly stripping public officials and the government itself from any "privacy" and granting them "privacy" (which is by definition arbitrarily defined and subjective) to hide behind, it is clear that the former choice is orders of magnitude better.

  • by internic (453511) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @12:49PM (#24781145)

    You know, yours started out as a seemingly somewhat insightful comment. Then you come in with lines like, "The Associated (with terrorists) Press" and you unmask yourself as totally off your rocker. It also doesn't help that almost all of your links point to what is clearly essentially a political propaganda site.

    However, I don't dispute that the mainstream press makes stuff up. I don't know how you missed mentioning the Jayson Blair [wikipedia.org] incident, for example. Usually people have a tendency to notice the instances that go against their ideological preconceptions and interpret this as a [insert opposing group/ideology] media bias. I think it's good to remember Hanlon's Razor, never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity...or in this case laziness and greed. The simplest explanation for the observed phenomenon is simply that journalists try to churn out as much work as possible as quickly as possible and sometimes some of them get sloppy. Unfortunately, most of the people who would like to position themselves as the alternative to mainstream media are even worse, in terms of both accuracy and bias.

    I wish there were more of a backlash against inaccurate reporting, but unfortunately most people are far too constrained by ideological blinders to do anything but turn it into some partisan fight over supposed media bias. Judging by your list of sources and the absence of any of the many many examples of misconduct by Fox News, it seems you probably fall into this category as well.

  • by Kelbear (870538) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @03:50PM (#24783845)

    Him doing something wrong does not make you doing it /legal/.

    There, fixed that for you.

    It's an issue of legality, not of morality. One is very clear on the matter, while the other is disputable.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes

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