Honest Appalachia: New whistleblower website aims to promote corporate and government accountability

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January 10 marked the launch of Honest Appalachia, a secure website meant to assist and protect whistleblowers who wish to reveal proof of corporate and government wrongdoing to citizens throughout the region.  From coal and gas companies to banks to governments, “our country desperately needs watchdogs” to hold institutions accountable, says the group of freelance journalists, transparency activists, and computer scientists that developed this project. Could it become a vehicle for a Wikileaks-type shake-up in the region?  “We believe the world has too many secrets for one website,” say the project’s organizers.

Honest Appalachia Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2012

NEW WHISTLEBLOWER WEBSITE PROMISES

TRANSPARENCY IN APPALACHIA

CHARLESTON, WV — Today marks the launch of Honest Appalachia, a new website designed to empower whistleblowers throughout Appalachia. According to a description on its website, Honest Appalachia is a secure website meant to assist and protect whistleblowers who wish to reveal proof of corporate and government wrongdoing to citizens throughout the region.

Whistleblowers will be able to upload documents to the Honest Appalachia website using security technology that will keep their identity hidden, even in the face of legal action. Project organizers plan to work with local journalists to analyze and publish the information they receive.

From coal and gas companies to banks and zoning boards to local and state governments, the organization says it wants to hold institutions accountable and help make Appalachia a more transparent place.

“We believe our country desperately needs watchdogs at the local, state and regional level, and our website has stepped in to help fill the gap,” a statement on the project’s website said. “We are committed to being objective and professional in our presentation of the documents and information we receive from whistleblowers.”

Honest Appalachia has been in development for a year and is being operated by a team of computer scientists, freelance journalists and transparency activists in Appalachia and beyond. It is funded by a seed grant from the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency group based in Washington D.C., as well as by private donations.

In addition to its work with whistleblowers, the organization will provide assistance to other individuals and groups who are working on similar projects. Honest Appalachia, which was inspired by international transparency organizations like Wikileaks, is designed as a low-cost replicable model that can be adapted to other regions around the country and the world.

“We believe the world has too many secrets for one website,” said the project’s organizers, in a written statement online.

From the Honest Appalachia website:

Honest Appalachia is a secure website that will allow whistleblowers to anonymously leak corporate and government secrets to the public. Using our security protocol, whistleblowers will be able to upload secret documents to our site without fear of reprisal. The website hopes to serve a vital need in Appalachia, by inspiring whistleblowers to make critical information available to an informed citizenry.

In addition, Honest Appalachia hopes to serve as a replicable model for similar projects elsewhere in the United States and around the world. We are willing to offer our assistance to those working on similar projects. We believe that our model can change the way government and industry operate. We believe our model will help in the perennial effort to keep our politicians, our government agencies and our corporations honest.

Honest Appalachia was developed by a group of freelance journalists, transparency activists and computer programmers from Appalachia and beyond. It seeks to adhere to a strict journalistic ethic, maintaining objectivity and nonpartisanship in its activities.

The project is funded by a grant from the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency watchdog based in Washington D.C, as well as by private donations.

 

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