Civic Apps: A Digital Platform for Open Data
The Internet has become a fabulous tool for obtaining information, thus democratizing access to data. Above all, the digital world has made it easier to access information of public interest that citizens have the right to know. However, despite growing support for the open data movement, a culture of secrecy is still prevalent in many countries of the LAC region.
Mexicoleaks was born precisely to contribute to citizen transparency and overcome the barriers imposed by the spheres of power on access to sensitive information.
Winner of the 2016 FRIDA Award, this whistleblowing platform has put Mexican power circles in check by receiving and publishing data on abuses, acts of corruption and the violation of rights, Eduard Martin-Borregón, one of the Main drivers of Mexicoleaks, told LACNIC News.
What is the Mexicoleaks platform and how does it work?
“An independent whistleblowing platform for revealing information in the public interest in Mexico.” This is how Mexicoleaks introduces itself on its website. In addition to offering a platform where whistleblowers can leak information safely and anonymously, it is an alliance of media outlets and civil society organizations working together towards a common goal: a more transparent and democratic Mexico.
When and why did you come up with the idea for this whistleblowing platform? Who is part of this platform?
The platform was born in March 2014 with eight partners: Animal Político; emeequis; Más de 131; Periodistas de a Pie; Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER); Proceso; Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D); and Aristegui Noticias, with the support of Free Press Unlimited and the Associated Whistleblower Press.
How is Mexicoleaks funded?
Mexicoleaks is currently funded through its partners, who contribute in kind to journalists who manage the day-to-day operation of the platform and its research activities. We also receive support from Free Press Unlimited and Associated Whistleblower Press for our technology services.
How do you guarantee the anonymity or the citizens who submit information? Is the platform secure? Have your sources ever been leaked? Have you ever been attacked by hackers?
Security is an essential part of the process. Mexicoleaks uses advanced digital security technologies designed exclusively for whistleblowing. It is essential that all instructions are followed closely so that the identity of the whistleblower is protected and that no one, not even ourselves, will know the origin of the information.
How do journalists from the different media outlets that are part of Mexicoleaks investigate the information received through the platform? Do you work together? Who chooses where the information is published?
The platform could have been designed as an anonymous mailbox where various media outlets access the information independently, without any type of coordination. Mexicoleaks chose to be more than that, we chose to become an alliance where media outlets coordinate and agree on the publication of a leak. Sensitive issues are investigated jointly so as to move forward with greater speed. It is managed as a distributed network of knowledge for the accountability of major institutions and corporations.
Do you believe the creation of Mexicoleaks has contributed to the transparency of information in Mexico?
The context of insecurity and corruption makes journalism and human rights advocacy in Mexico highly risky. In this sense, there is limited citizen participation in journalism, transparency and openness of information.
Mexicoleaks is a tool that allows people to send information of public interest to media outlets and civil society organizations through secure technologies that guarantee anonymity of the source. Through transparency and civil participation, it aims to strengthen fairness, accountability and ultimately democracy.
Have you noticed an increase in citizen participation in reporting alleged acts of corruption since the eruption of Mexicoleaks? Has this platform contributed to the creation of a culture of anonymous whistleblowing in Mexico?
We believe in these two years we have helped break Mexican society’s traditional silence when faced with injustice, the violation of rights and improper practices in general. Cases such as the settlement received by current national leader of the PRI upon his departure from a parastatal company, or having stopped the construction of a shopping center on pre-Hispanic ruins, show that silence and the fear of speaking up are slowly changing.
How have the different leaders reacted to Mexicoleaks?
The day after Mexicoleaks was presented, two journalists with Aristegui Noticias were fired by MVS, the network where they were working at the time. Journalist Carmen Aristegui’s entire team was fired a week later.
A few months earlier, Aristegui and her team had published a report on the “White House” of President Enrique Peña Nieto, linking him and his wife to one of the country’s largest construction companies.
What has the FRIDA Award received in 2016 meant for the initiative?
It has been of great help, particularly because it allowed us to implement a communications campaign that resulted in more and better leaks. It also allowed us to project the platform internationally and gain the recognition and support that comes with winning a regional award such as this.
What do you take away from your participation at the IGF as one of the winners of the FRIDA Award? What was the goal of the video you made with the funds received from FRIDA?
It was a great space for sharing ideas, especially with other FRIDA Award winners, and it allowed us to better understand how the Internet is used worldwide. The corollary was complementing the communications campaign we were conducting with the video made by FRIDA.