WikiLeaks has warned of the dangers whistleblowers face if they leak top secret documents through platforms like 4chan, after an Australian government employee revealed secret government documents on the notorious image board.
Inspired by the co-founder of WikiLeaks, Department of Defence graduate Michael Scerba published a highly sensitive report in 2012 in a 4chan post entitled 'Julian Assange is my hero'. The two-page document was soon deleted after failing to gain much attention, with 4chan users who did see it dismissing it as "fake and gay".
"If you're going to leak sensitive documents on the internet, do it right and come to us," a spokesperson for WikiLeaks told Australia's Fairfax Media. "What's really sad about this case is that the Australian public is still denied what sounds like it is a significant document."
Scerba now faces two charges for the public disclosure of secret information prejudicial to national security, one of which he is expected to plead guilty to.
Court documents reveal that a former Defence Signals Directorate officer made the "fortuitous" discovery of the secret documents on 4chan. According to prosecutors, Scerba had posted: "I release what I feel should be in the media: bombings, civilian deaths, actions of the 'terrorists' that just aren't reported in the media."
An hour after posting, the documents were automatically deleted from 4chan due to a lack of interest from users. Scerba then allegedly wrote another post that stated: "To my dismay I just got a bunch of 'fake and gay' remarks and the secret documents went 404 [website not found] about 4 comments and 1 hour later."
Australian Federal Police subsequently tracked Scerba using the IP address of the original post. WikiLeaks offers whistleblowers anonymity, as well as a platform for publishing leaks, which it claims makes it a more suited destination for whistleblowers like Scerba.
"We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists," WikiLeaks' website reads. "WikiLeaks has combined high-end security technologies with journalism and ethical principles. Like other media outlets conducting investigative journalism, we accept (but do not solicit) anonymous sources of information.
"Unlike other outlets, we provide a high security anonymous drop box fortified by cutting-edge cryptographic information technologies. This provides maximum protection to our sources. We are fearless in our efforts to get the unvarnished truth out to the public."