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Media Framing of WikiLeaks

The final speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Catherine Maggs, whose focus is on WikiLeaks. When it first emerged to mainstream media attention, the site was a spectacle, collaborating with some mainstream media at first but also already receiving substantial criticism from many established media organisations for its conduct.

WikiLeaks can be understood with reference to Manuel Castells's concept of counterpower; it challenged the journalistic status quo, in part also because of the question of whether what it did could be considered as a journalistic practice at all, while by now founder Julian Assange's personal troubles have been well publicised and it has been both lauded and attacked by Donald Trump and his supporters.

WikiLeaks has long been associated with liberal, leftist politics, but it was never fully accepted by that side of politics either; it materially contributed to critical responses to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and was subjected to extra-judicial attacks that saw its ability to raise funding curtailed when Paypal and other services refused to work with it.

Media representations and framing of WikiLeaks and its major information disclosures focussed in part on the unprecedented nature of the information dumps made available by the site; such framing also exercises the power of the established mainstream media over new media models in an attempt to define and label them. An analysis of coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post is instructive in this regard, for instance. Here, the Afghan War Logs and especially the Diplomatic Cables received the greatest attention amongst the early leaks published by WikiLeaks.