Group Launches Whistleblower Website In Appalachia

by Devin Katayama on January 10, 2012

A small group of activists and programmers have launched a whistleblower website similar to Wikileaks, but for the Appalachian region.

The site Honest Appalachia launched Tuesday. The goal is to develop working relationships with journalists throughout the region, said Garrett Robinson, 22, the project’s lead developer.

“Primarily local journalists so that we can get documents about their region, that affect their region, to the people that can talk to that region and have knowledge of that region and who can write about it in the most useful manner,” he said.

The website allows whistleblowers to upload documents over a secure site and the files will then be verified to the best of the editors’ knowledge, he said. Honest Appalachia should maintain elements of journalism, despite not releasing names of sources, said Robinson.

Part of the project’s appeal is the open source code which allows users to access, view and use the project’s code. This could help make the site  more secure if users decide to contribute ideas to the project, said Robinson.

Because Honest Appalachia may deal with sensitive documents from several states in the region the group is communicating with attorneys and developing a plan, he said.

“Legal protections are often designed at the state level for whistle blowers. So we are unsure what legal challenges we might face,” said Robinson.

The project currently operates out of West Virginia, but Robinson said the project is located wherever his laptop is. Robinson would not disclose how many individuals work for the project, but he says that number is growing.

Home Appalachia was given a $5,000 grant from the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington D.C. nonprofit committed to transparency and accountability in government.

Robinson said the group expects costs for the project to be $10,000 annually paid by grants and individual donations.

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