|Submitted by jestin on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 04:08.|
There's no way to avoid it in the news this week, and I've never been one to shy away from political issues, so I figured I'd say my piece.
I like Wikileaks.
The idea that there is a place out there that will publish information regardless whether the powers that be don't want it published is inspiring and necessary. If I ever find myself with important, confidential information that my conscience keeps nagging at me to disclose, I will need such an organization. Luckily, I have never been in such a situation. My most sincere sympathy goes out to those who have, and I am glad that there are organizations that can help. I would hate to see such organizations be stomped out, but I also doubt very much such a thing could ever occur.
As to the information that Wikileaks publishes (with the help of cooperating mainstream media organizations, I might add), I believe the content is irrelevant to the issue of Wikileak's legitimacy. As a publisher of leaked content, their main (debatably only) responsibility is to ensure the authenticity of the content. In other words, it's not their job to determine if a leaked cable contains accurate information, only that the cable itself is what they claim it to be. Even though I don't feel they particularly owe it to anyone, Wikileaks has been kind enough consult with major media organizations to figure out what needs to be redacted in order for responsible publication. In the era of internet media, this is an extra step that few would think of taking, and even fewer would bother with.
This has led me to believe that the smear campaign that is now taking place in the mainstream media outlets of the US is completely uncalled for. Wikileaks is merely a media organization, albeit a non-traditional one. They gather information, and publish it. Such a task used to be considered a necessary part of any democracy, but apparently times have changed. Of course the US government doesn't like them, so they will say what they can to sway your opinions. It's generally the same tired rhetoric about national security, the blanket excuse governments always use to take away a citizen's rights.
However, I think that traditional media outlets are also joining in, possibly because they feel cheated that the story wasn't leaked to them. After all, isn't it these media organizations that should have uncovered the leaks before a website got the chance? We all know that traditional media has been struggling to find it's way in the new world of the internet. Could their demonization of Wikileaks be a part of the new media vs old media battle that is constantly being fought nowadays? It doesn't sound that far-fetched to me.
Another thing to think about all this, is that perhaps Wikileaks is in itself a bad system. I have already said that I like the idea of being able to leak documents to the world at large, but that doesn't mean that Wikileaks is the end all and be all of accomplishing this task. For example, Wikileaks in not currently accepting new leaked information due to the massive amount of documents it already has to deal with. Its own popularity effectively shut down the site before any of the DDoS attacks, the DNS blocking, the Visa and Mastercard blocking, and the arrest of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. It sounds to me like they aren't even necessarily that prepared to handle the task they have assigned themselves.
Another odd phrase that I've heard thrown around with all this is "I don't trust Wikileaks". What exactly are we supposed to trust them for? The only thing I can think of, is that we need to trust that the documents they leak are authentic. Given the US government's reaction, I'd say we can assume that without placing any trust whatsoever on Wikileaks. Other than that, they owe nothing to anyone.
The sharing of information has changed drastically in the last two decades, and many of the old rules don't apply. This is just another example of the same. Just like dumb kids posting photos to Facebook, the governments of the world need to learn that once something is on the internet, it's there forever.