An organization is taking a bite out of crime with tips from anonymous whistlerblowers.
For almost two centuries, Italy has fought a war against the Mafia, a broad term defining various highly organized and violent crime rings. The Mafia’s strongest weapon is not its knack for secrecy or corruption of local governments, but rather the omertà, an unwritten code of silence rooted in fear — a cultural attitude that makes people turn a blind eye to Mafia operations and refuse to report what they’ve seen to the authorities.
The site is also inspired by the ancient Boche de Leon, 16th century mouth-shaped mailboxes in which the citizens of the Venetian Republic could drop documents or notes to magistrates containing anonymous complaints, according to one of its founders (see image below).
“With this website we don’t do anything more than transform a server into a stupid hole in the wall,” one of founders of the site, who used the pseudonym Bobby for fear of reprisals, told Mashable.
The site, which launched on Tuesday, positions itself as a mediator between potential suppliers of information about Mafia activity and those who can act on that information, such as journalists, anti-Mafia organizations and law enforcement agencies. For now, only journalists are listed as receivers of the material, but anyone can send information.
“The goal is to experiment with an innovative technology to tear down the wall of omertà and silence that protects Mafia organizations,” reads the manifest on MafiaLeaks’ site. “We call on all citizens: If you know something, say something.”
A submission system using the same technology as WikiLeaks ensures that whistleblower and Mafia victims remain anonymous, not even the site’s administrators know who they are.
“We’re not asking you to trust MafiaLeaks, in fact, we’re asking you not to trust us,” reads the FAQ on the site. That’s exactly the point: A source is safe because not even the site, let alone the receivers, know his identity.