Real life Mob Wars: MafiaLeaks uses Tor anonymity to battle organized crime

A new site wants to use the power of anonymity to battle organized crime in southern Italy.

While the scope and power of the Italian Mafia fades in the United States, it is still a pervasive force throughout many part of southern Italy. In fact, the problem of organized crime in Italy is seen by many as both a root cause and exacerbater of that nation's economic woes.

While there has been a cultivated effort on behalf of the Italian authorities to battle organized crime and corruption, the problem still persists--specifically by way of the Sicilly-based Mafia and Calbria-based 'Ndrangheta. However, a new website known as MafiaLeaks is looking to utilize  Wikileaks-style transparency to take on the organized crime gangs.

The Italian-run MafiaLeaks describes its mission as one to collect information about organized crime syndicates. But unlike Wikileaks, MafiaLeaks' main goal is not to publish information that it collects, but rather to act as a medium by which to shepherd insider information to "trustworthy people" within the police, media, or other "anti-mafia" forces.

The company's manifesto states (via Google Translate):

MafiaLeaks want to give the opportunity to denounce the mafia activities in an anonymous way, protecting those who send a message. The goal is to experiment with innovative technology to be able to break down the wall of silence and silence that protects the associations of the mafia.

The power of anonymity

The site asks insiders, victims, or just people who have information to send in tips. In order to maintain anonymity--and therefore protection from potential retribution--tipsters are instructed on how to download and use the anonymizing Tor network, which shields a computer's identity by routing its connection through a maze of host computers.

Users are then instructed to access a website hosted by the tor2web framework of anonymous servers. The site will allow tipsters to monitor if their information has been downloaded, and will automatically delete all information from the network within 20 days.

The site may have been guided into existence with the help of members of the Anonymous "hacktivist" collective; its "We're hiring" page shows a person in a Guy Fawkes mask, and MafiaLeaks launched on November 5th--"Guy Fawkes Night," a day that Anonymous holds near and dear.

If so, this isn't the first time that Anonymous has taken on organized crime. Two years ago the loose digital conflagration launched #OpCartel, in which it planned to expose collaborators with Mexico's bloody Zetas drug cartel. The #Op was in apparent retribution for an Anonymous member who was taken hostage--an event that does not even seem to have taken place. Notwithstanding, the organization decided to drop #OpCartel with criticisms that the exposing of names would almost certainly lead to bloodshed.

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