Visualizing Wikileaks mirrors

Visualizing Wikileaks mirrors

For the past few weeks, Wikileaks has drawn a lot of attention from the media. Mostly because of the Cablegate.

Whether Julian Assange should be considered as a Hero (by publishing information) or Terrorist is an open question. Because of threats from governments, companies in the USA started to ban payment, hosting and dns services to Wikileaks. Soon Wikileaks moved from servers based in the USA to Sweden/Switzerland.

For now Wikileaks seem to be safe, however, they also started a call for mirrors.

Interested to see which people in the world are supporting Wikileaks, I had the idea to visualize the Wikileaks mirrors on Google Earth.

* update 09-12-2010 8pm CET *
– Added Google Earth web plugin links

* update 10-12-2010 10am CET *
– Got featured on ReadWriteWeb / NY Times, thanks guys!
– Stay tuned for more updates!

* update 23-12-2010 10pm CET *
– Embedded Google Earth web plugin in demo section

Data mining

In order to get the data, I went to the official Wikileaks website which had all mirrors listed on this page: mirrors. I wrote a small PHP script that would open up the mirror page and scanned the document for URLs. If a mirror was found, it would be stored in a file. At this moment there are about 1334 mirrors on the website.

Data manipulation

At this point I only have the URLs of the mirrors, but how do I know where these servers are located?

In order to know where the server is located, I used GeoLite City which is a service from MaxMind. GeoLite City allows you to resolve most IPs to a geospatial location. Of course it doesn’t gives the exact location, but usually it is able to show in which City the server is located, which is good enough for my purpose.

After obtaining the GeoLite City database (there is a free version!) I used PHP to write a script that would first resolve the URL to an IP address (PHP function: gethostbyname() ) and then use this IP address to look up the longtitude and latitude.

The last step was converting the data into the KML format (and adding some artificial altitude information) for use with Google Earth.

Data visualization

Below are some of the early results.

Currently the main server ( seem to be located in Sweden, when we view the data in Google Earth we can see that a lot of mirrors are actually located in Europe.

Europe Red pin: Wikileaks server
Yellow pins: Wikileaks mirrors
Greenlines: Connections from the Wikileaks server to a Wikileaks mirror

Wikileaks mirrors in the USA

Since some of the servers are at the same location (probably sharing the same data center), we can click on a pin and it will expand to show all mirrors located at this data center.

Screencast / Video

Short screencast (Watch it in HD 720p, in fullscreen mode)

Online Demo

To view this demo you will need to install the Google Earth Browser Plug-in

KML source

Want to try it out locally on your computer?

No problem! Here is how:

Visualizing Wikileaks mirrors
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Research projects

Newer post

Wikileaks mirror spread

Visualizing Wikileaks mirrors

8 responses

  1. What song’s that on the video? Cheers, Dave.

    Dave Barker December 9th, 2010
  2. Superbus - Finest Morning Free dl:

    Laurence Muller December 9th, 2010
  3. Hi! Nice work! Can you please publish the scripts, too?

    Himpel – December 11th, 2010
  4. There’s another visualization, also showing the growing number of mirrors across time:

    m – December 11th, 2010
  5. @Himpel: i created the other wikileaks mirror visualization and I published the php script that does the scraping at You can find it here:

    Greg December 11th, 2010
  6. Thanks for the fine work. For the app loaded and running in a few minutes. Question: how can I display the green mirror-to-central links?

    Sycobubble – December 12th, 2010
  7. Open up the wikileaks-edges.kml file in Google Earth

    Laurence Muller December 12th, 2010
  8. Thanks. Do you mind publishing the map and the plotting, too?

    Himpel – December 15th, 2010