Shopping for a new server? Want a piece of whistleblower history? Want to piss off Julian Assange? You can do all three of these things at once, if you buy the server that hosted hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks a few years ago. And it still works!
Like most WikiLeaks-related things, however, the server comes with some complications. You see, WikiLeaks is not the one selling the server on eBay. It's Bahnhof, the Swedish internet service provider that rented out the server to Julian Assange. Despite the fact that Bahnhof is donating the proceeds of the sale to Reporters Without Borders and 5july.org — bids surpassed the $US3000 mark just a few hours after the auction went live — WikiLeaks is not happy with how everything went down. "Bahnhof did not seek permission to auction the WikiLeaks server or to use it for marketing purposes, or to send the proceeds to others," WikiLeaks said in a tweet.
Bahnhof insists that its intentions are honourable though. Calling the server "the physical server that changed the word" and "a unique collector's item", the Swedish company, a one-time WikiLeaks ally, said it would include the original paperwork with Julian Assange's signature and, more broadly, defended its decision to sell the server on the eBay auction page. Among other reasons, Bahnhof spokesman Jon Karlug responded to the WikiLeaks condemnation:
Bahnhof owns the hardware. Wikileaks rented it between September 2010 and july 2011, both the operations cablegates and war logs where performed from that particular web server. We do not seek authorization to sell our own hardware. And its a server - a historical collectible item - buts its still just hardware, not content. The hard disks has been erased according to U.S. specification DoD 5220.22-M where every byte of the hard disk is overwritten several times. The original information cannot be recreated, not even by NSA.
He added, "I see this auction of hardware as great opportunity to raise interest for freedom of speech on the Internet."
It's unclear why WikiLeaks thinks that it should've authorised the sale. "Freedom of speech on the internet" is sort of their thing. If this is indeed the server that hosted the material leaked by Pfc. Chelsea Manning, however, there's certainly an argument that it should be kept in a museum. Sure, it's just hardware, but it's also hardware with a serious history. It'd be a shame for some rich collector to buy it up just to throw it in his basement, wouldn't it?