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Porn WikiLeaks: The Dark Side Of Radical Transparency

“The illegal gay pimps like Derek Hay and fags that work in porn on the straight side like Christianx must go because the gay industry is not tested and the HIV spreading the gays are doing is ruining porn, read more about it on our forum!”

So declares Porn WikiLeaks, a website intent upon exposing the real identities of 23,756 porn actors and actresses. It's also a good example of the dark turn that the logic of radical transparency and crowdsourcing can take.

The ambition of Porn WikiLeaks can be seen just by looking at its dossiers: they are organized much like Wikipedia entries, replete with headers for everything from the actor's or actress's childhood school to their most recent Twitter activity. Most of the dossiers are empty or only partially full, but many others include photographs of private residences and family members, and even phone numbers.

In the words of Mike South, a blogger who covers adult-entertainment issues and who first broke the story when he warned his readers -- many of whom are in the business -- about the breach: “Your information is now in the hands of people who shouldn't have it.”

Precisely whose hands is a good question. Speculation about the real identity of Porn WikiLeaks' webmaster has centered around Donny Long, a former pornographic actor. However, although the site is clearly the work of an obsessive and vigilante personality, it's likely that the webmaster has had help. According to South, most of the information may have come from computer files owned by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), an STD-testing facility based in the Los Angeles area that caters to the adult-entertainment industry.

In a press release from March 31, however, although AIM announced that it is “investigating the possibility of a criminal breach of the medical record database,” it insists that the kind of deeply private information on Porn WikiLeaks is not stored in its database. If so, then that data has probably been provided by people like you and me: neighbors, colleagues, web surfers -- the rank and file of any wiki.

From the perspective of transparency, there is thus a kind of sinister brilliance to Porn WikiLeaks. At one level, it perverts and inverts the logic that Guy Rundle, an Australian intellectual who's written about the philosophy behind Julian Assange, believes is the driving force behind the original WikiLeaks:

WikiLeaks has never been about an unedited, unconsidered process. Assange has argued that the degree of power exercised and the right to leak should also be considered in implicitly mathematical terms: total power licenses total exposure; zero power implies a total right to personal privacy. Such an ethic presumably lies across the boundary of a single life -- the personal circumstances of someone in power should not be fair game for leaking, unless the circumstances of that private life are generating corrupt activities.

Porn WikiLeaks is essentially a peer group turned against itself, destroying its own privacy in the pursuit of personal vendettas and voyeurism. One wonders how long it may be before authoritarian governments realize the terrible potential of this “Wiki-Orwellianism” -- crowdsourcing applied to the invasion of privacy -- to lure a population into policing itself.

-- Christopher Schwartz

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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