Honest Appalachia is a new website for whistleblowers that allows individuals to leak corporate information to the public anonymously and hopes to expose government and corporate wrongdoing in a rural region lacking a strong media presence. Founded by Jim Tobias and Garrett Robinson, the site is positioned to be the Wikileaks of the Appalachian region. The founders hope to first attract documents from those in government and regulatory agencies and to shed much-needed media spotlight on corporate misdoings in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Honest Appalachia was developed by a group of freelance journalists and transparency activists and is funded by a seed grant through the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit committed to transparency that’s based in Washington, D.C., as well as by private donations. The site wants to make critical information available to the public in Appalachia and the greater U.S. by encouraging whistleblowers to post information such as budgetary reviews and company audits to their website without fear of reprisal. Ultimately, the site hopes to “change the way government and industry operate” by encouraging freedom of information and information-seeking practices without fear of repercussions.
Honest Appalachia draws its inspiration from organizations such as WikiLeaks and OpenLeaks, and other sites and organizations targeting coal and gas companies, banks, zoning boards and local and state governments. These sites keep member identities hidden, even in the face of legal action, because they represent a progressive drive that will further freedom of information and fact-sharing initiatives. And the legitimacy of pending documents submitted by users is verified before anything is posted to the website, says Tobias.
Ultimately, Tobias adds, we will need a multitude of different organizations like Honest Appalachia to expose the many corporate wrongdoings in America today. “The world has too many secrets for one website,” he says.