Stichting Publeaks connects whistleblowers with the media

Target group

Sources that wish to remain anonymous toward journalists

Beneficiaries

The protected whistleblowers, journalists investigating power abuses, the public.

Other stakeholders

Media organisations that are member of Publeaks

Country Partners Budget Duration
The Netherlands Stichting Publeaks 2013-now
Theory of Change Themes Donor
Intermediate Outcome 2 Access to Information, Accountability, Fact checking, Safety of journalists, Trust in media Member contributions and currently also Vereniging Veronica

Context

Abuses of power happen in every society and can occur in every section of a society. Sometimes there are sources or ‘whistleblowers’ who may have information or knowledge that could expose these abuses, but they may not have the means to leak this information in a safe way.  It’s important that power abuses are investigated so that they can be stopped or so that a wider discussion about the abuses can start. In order for journalists to conduct thorough investigations into these abuses, reliable sources are needed. That’s why whistleblowers are essential for the media to foster accountability.

Journalists can independently verify the sources and decide on further investigation or publication. The task of the press is to check, to publish and to raise the issue. The press is equipped for this. Journalists are professionals who investigate, ask questions, apply rebuttal and they have a medium with which to publicize matters. The task now is to equip whistleblowers just as well and protect them so that they are not scared of leaking crucial information and performing their essential role as watchdog for the public.

 

FYI @Bryony: instead of ‘informants’ it is better to use the term ‘sources’ when dealing with journalists/media.

Suggestion to change the title: Stichting Publeaks connects whistleblowers with the media

Overall objective

Publeaks connects whistleblowers with the media.

As an initiator of the Publeaks platform, Free Press Unlimited’s objective was to set up a platform that allows sources to leak information to the press securely and anonymously. On the Publeaks platform, the whistleblower can choose which of the affiliated media organisations they want to tip off with information or documents. The journalist receiving the information can then leave messages for the whistleblower, all whilst the latter remains anonymous and untraceable. Leaks are not without risk, but Publeaks makes it as safe as possible; the leak platform’s software (Globaleaks) ensures that the sender, location and other metadata cannot be traced.

While Publeaks evolved from a project into a Foundation, Free Press Unlimited continues to be committed for Publeaks to be a safe and anonymous platform. Free Press Unlimited used this experience to set up similar leaks platforms connecting whistleblowers with the media in other countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Mali).

Intended outcomes

Publeaks is to improve the security for journalists and their sources. The leaks platform makes counter-surveillance technologies easy to use by journalists and their sources. Publeaks allows whistleblowers and journalists to communicate privately, anonymously and safely.

An expanded membership base of Publeaks that allows Foundation to be financially independent to maintain the platform

Due to promotion and outreach, more and more sources that want to remain anonymous or do not want their digital footprints to be traced start using Publeaks to share information with the media.

The Publeaks platform supports investigative journalism in holding governments and businesses to account.

 

FYI: Bryony, these are more outputs, then outcomes.

  1. Increase the number of affiliated media organizations on the Publeaks platform
  2. Increase the number of sources using the Publeaks platform
  3. Publicize the work of Publeaks in order to make the platform more well known

 

Activities

  • Maintain and perform upgrades to the leaks platform’s software and its website (e.g. mobile friendliness)
  • Connect new media organisations to the Publeaks platform
  • Train journalists on how to safely access the data and communicate with whistleblowers via the platform
  • Media organisations that receive the information will investigate the leaks (fact-checking) and are responsible for the publications

 

FYI: Bryony: The Google DNI project was not fully implemented as planned; it was technically not feasible. And since I took the full project period, starting 2013 instead of 2018, I rephrased this section.

FPU wanted to develop a mobile channel for Publeaks that:

(1) allows whistleblowers to use their mobile device to share information with the media

(2) better enables conversations between whistleblowers and journalists

(3) provides strong privacy and anonymity.

Achieved outputs

  • By now, Publeaks has approximately 20 media organisations that can receive anonymous leaks from their sources/whistleblowers
  • Free Press Unlimited organizes (refresher) training on digital security and the use of the platform for the journalist that receive the tips
  • Regularly, the media organisations publish articles that originated from leaks received from the platform that made headlines in Dutch news
  • Since 2019, the Publeaks platform is mobile-responsive

Bryony, this can probably be more decriptive instead of the bullet points that I now did. Or move some of the outcome descriptions to here, the outputs

FYI: Bryony, again these are very specific to one funding (Google DNI)

Deciding on the safest platform for the Publeaks Mobile prototype

Based upon the outcomes of the assessment conducted by data privacy researchers and security considerations for whistleblowers, Free Press Unlimited decided on the safest platform for the Publeaks Mobile prototype. The threat model included in the security assessment will continue to inform both Free Press Unlimited as journalists in the future about (meta)data security of mobile chat platforms in their communication with sources.

Facilitating a mobile-responsive Publeaks platform

The website is now mobile-responsive and offers a renewed interface that better suits three types of users: a whistleblower returning to their communication with a journalist, a person considering using Publeaks to leak sensitive information to the media by using Tor, and people willing to learn more about the initiative of Publeaks.

Achieved outcomes

@bryony, can you revise this section: possibly move some of these ‘achieved outcomes’ toward outputs (are most often directly connected with activities), and outcome is what we want to achieve with the new members/leaks: holding those in power to account.

Connecting more media outlets with Publeaks

Publeaks now has 19 active media connected to its platform.

Encouraging more sources to use Publeaks

In 2019 there were many sources who used the Publeaks platform anonymously and safely. It is not clear how many publications this has led to, because the media does not always disclose how the tips were obtained.

The accessibility of the Publeaks platform was also improved in 2019 when the website received a major update, enabling a user-friendly mobile version of Publeaks that caters to the needs of whistleblowers. Leaking news tips to the media has been simplified and whistleblowers continue to enjoy the strong privacy and anonymity that Publeaks offers. Acting as an addition to the existing Publeaks, the mobile channel is expected to generate more leaks with more photos. In addition, the mobile prototype better enables conversations between whistleblowers and journalists so they can discuss the leaked documents, photos and sensitive information about wrongdoings in the society.

Generating more publicity for Publeaks

The campaign to make Publeaks more known resulted in an approx. 25% increase in Twitter followers for Publeaks. The media also reported that the campaign has increased the number of tips received.

Achieved impact

e.g. Henk Krol stepped down as parlimentary member because of a Publeaks story

e.g. Control on the access of medical files by hospital staff is stricter since the Barbie-story

e.g. AH reviewed its in-house training for staff after the media exposed the discriminatory stereotyping of customers in the training material

e.g. Leaks platform allowed sources to leak additional information related to ongoing investigative journalistic work on kinderbijslagaffaire and corona

etc.

 

Role of FPU

Free Press Unlimited helped set up Publeaks platform for Dutch media and its step toward independence of becoming Stichting Publeaks. The board of Stichting Publeaks has asked Free Press Unlimited to run the Secretariat which relates to connecting and training of new members, and providing technical support related to the maintenance of the platform (in collaboration with Globaleaks and Greenhost) and the day-to-day support to journalists and sources that reach out to Publeaks via email and social media.

More information

Website Publeaks

FPU project with Publeaks

Publeaks brochure This one is outdated: FPU has nothing to do with AfriLeaks. Please remove.

Alternatively, you can refer to the English website: publeaks.org

Or this YouTube explanatory video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSjV1aDtMNo