The secret-spilling website WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War on Friday, October 22, marking the largest military leak in U.S. history. The huge database covers events from the Iraq War from 2004 through 2009, with the vast majority of logs classified at the “secret” level. WikiLeaks now offers a special website with a sophisticated search engine that makes it easy to browse and search through the documents – looking for the truth about the combat mission.
Wikileaks is one of the most discussed web platform since they posted a video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces in April 2010 and in July of the same year dumped an “Afghan War Diary”, a compilation of more than 76,900 secret documents about the Afghanistan War. Wikileaks as the organization itself wouldn’t be possible without the internet – So it is not surprising that every time Wikileaks publishes some new explosive news, it is well-discussed on the internet.
In a five-day period starting from the release date, we captured and analyzed 38,181 comments and conversations around the globe (in English and Arabic language). The peak was identified to be on October 23, one day after the release when most of the news sites and traditional media like TV stations and newspapers spread the information.
Also, the issue caused remarkable reactions in the MENA region, perceptible on the facts that third most comments were gathered from Egypt and 3% of the total results were in Arabic language.
Where did people discuss?
Twitter could be identified as the main “news driver” in the social web. Most of the results (53%) were captured from the Microblog Twitter where people most often posted a link to an article about the issue. Also, some people used the new information from Wikileaks to make a statement like
“Iraq war civilian deaths 66081. That’s one 9/11 every 4 months for last 7 years. No monuments. No minutes silence” (This single Tweet was re-tweeted more than a hundred times.)
By taking a deeper look at the tweeted articles, many discussions could be monitored below the shared news articles. User discussions were very controversial about the publishing of the War Logs. About 25% of the total buzz was caused by comments on news sites, which is here categorized as Media Type Others.
Meanwhile, Discussion Forums (9%) and Social Networks (8%) like Facebook were popular channels to talk about or comment on the biggest military leak in history.
What did people discuss?
The top discussed subject that could be filtered out of the 38,181 posts and comments could be subsume to the question “Was Julian Assange right or wrong to publish the war logs”. The debate was quite balanced and controversial, like these sample verbatim show:
“Telling the truth is never wrong. Breaking your promise to keep certain materials confidential is wrong. It’s fucked up beyond belief that anybody believes the notion that telling the truth can be wrong. But blaming in on telling the truth is just bullshit.”
“So what’s new Mr Assange? We all know that death, bloodshed and torture are a part of war. I have better things to do than go to your website and learn something that I already know. Do you have anything positive to say? How about some ideas on how to defeat the Taliban, and muslim terrorism in general.”
After a depth analysis of the discussion it could be outlined that most of the users thought that Assange was right (36%) to publish the war logs. About (24%) thought Wikileaks was wrong by publishing secret documents. The majority of comments were identified as neutral in nature (especially most of the Tweets as you can see at the charts alongside).
Closely linked to this subject was the question “how enemies could use the information provided by Wikileaks”. This debate was stimulated by the government official statement, that publishing secret documents put US troops and allies into danger. A comment on a news site responds to that question:
“It is rubbish that this information could endanger US troops and Iraqis. It wouldn’t endanger the lives of anyone! It’s like saying that the information published on the deaths of civilians and soldiers in the 2nd World War could endanger US troops and Australian troops. It is obviously an embarrassment to the US and the coalition. If anything, it could help save many thousands of lives if more Nations took more care when using armed conflict if the ramifications are in the voting public’s mind. The desire for governments to keep the truth hidden from the community has been almost inbuilt since governments and rulers were invented. The US and Australia are no different.”
Another well discussed topic was the person of Julian Assange himself. At the one hand, people were talking about the ideals Assange and wikileaks stand for, but on the other, many users were afraid that Assange could be the target of an intelligence operation or something similar. The ongoing denouncing against Assange would have been only the first step of a bigger conspiracy against the founder of Wikileaks, some people suspect. Few people were wondering about the massive danger that Assange put himself into.
“I admire Julian Assange and what Wikileaks have achieved so far. I fear it is only a matter of time before he has an ‘accident’. I truly hope that doesn’t eventuate.”
“This WikiLeaks dude is gonna get himself killed, but at least he’s got balls (unlike our president).”