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What is a whistleblower?

Quick definition: A person, usually an employee of a workplace or organisation that leaks unlawful or immoral activity and information. Whistleblowing can occur anywhere, from workplaces, to organisations, and even the government. 

Whistleblowers can be a singular person, or an organisation with multiple whistleblowers. Then there are organisations like Wikileaks (we’ll talk about them later) who publish whistleblower content from sources.

Generally, there are two categories, private sector whistleblowers, and public sector whistleblowers. 

Whistleblowers are highly divisive, especially around classified information on the government. Pro-whistleblowers believe that whistleblowers play an important role in identifying and calling out misconduct, immoral behaviour, and harm to the community, as well as holding the powerful to account, no matter who, or what body is conducting immoral activities. Critics argue that some information from whistleblowers can compromise national security, and put innocent people in danger. 

There are (complicated) laws around whistleblowers, and they vary depending on what information is getting leaked. 

There are laws around whistleblowers? 

Each country is different, but in Australia, there are whistleblower laws that protect individuals who come forward in the private sector. For public sector situations, subjects including national security and immigration can lead to whistleblowers facing significant prison time. 

Wikileaks 

You’ve more than likely heard of Wikileaks before. It’s an organisation that is dedicated to leaking news and classified material. Australian man Julian Assange is recognised as the founder and director of the organisation. Whistleblowers are able to leak to Wikileaks as anonymous sources. 

Wikileaks has been the publisher of many different pieces of well-known whistleblower content. Some of the most notable leaks from the site included a video called Collateral Murder in 2010. This video was of a Baghdad airstrike and showed the murder of journalists and civilians. There were also the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs that were leaked by Wikileaks, which contained material and data from the wars. In 2016, emails and documents were leaked from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, including information about conspiracy theories. It is thought that those emails and documents played a role in Clinton losing the 2016 election. 

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