Overseas Press Club of America. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange In recent weeks, the news has been dominated by the Wikileaks disclosure of classified State Department documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most recently, in the name of freedom of speech, defenders of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have been mounting hacking attacks on those trying to disavow him, ranging from Amazon.com and PayPal (for cutting off Wikileaks access) to the Swedish prosecutor who accuses him of rape. Should the OPC's Freedom of the Press Committee be defending Wikileaks and Assange? We haven't done so, on several grounds. For one thing, we three FOP co-chairs don't agree with Assange's basic position that all secrets should automatically be exposed; if spilled, some would damage national security and risk lives, and we believe the New York Times did the right thing in weeding out such material before printing the Wikileaks dump.
But this is not an open-and-shut case, and clearly an issue of moment for practicing journalists. The Aftermath of Wikileaks. The U.K.’s freedom of information commissioner, Christopher Graham, recently told The Guardian that the WikiLeaks disclosures irreversibly altered the relationship between the state and public.
As Graham sees it, the WikiLeaks incident makes clear that governments need to be more open and proactive, “publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn’t know it. . . WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen . . . these are facts that aren’t going away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that.” If U.K. officials take Graham seriously (and I have no idea if they will), the public may see more of government.
Whether that more in fact provides insights to empower citizens or simply gives the appearance of transparency is up for grabs. Jay Rosen on Afghanistan logs July '10. July 26, 2010 The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World's First Stateless News Organization "In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it.
But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. " Wikileaks.org: Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010Der Spiegel: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It New York Times: The War Logs The Guardian: The Afghanistan War Logs From my internal notebook and Twitter feed, a few notes on this development: 1. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said then. Opinion WL by Clay Shirky. Like a lot of people, I am conflicted about Wikileaks.
Citizens of a functioning democracy must be able to know what the state is saying and doing in our name, to engage in what Pierre Rosanvallon calls “counter-democracy”*, the democracy of citizens distrusting rather than legitimizing the actions of the state. Wikileaks plainly improves those abilities. On the other hand, human systems can’t stand pure transparency. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness. People trying to come to consensus must be able to privately voice opinions they would publicly abjure, and may later abandon. And so we have a tension between two requirements for democratic statecraft, one that can’t be resolved, but can be brought to an acceptable equilibrium.
As Tom Slee puts it, “Your answer to ‘what data should the government make public?’ If the long haul were all there was, Wikileaks would be an obviously bad thing. The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy - J. Lanier. The degree of sympathy in tech circles for both Wikileaks and Anonymous has surprised me.
The most common take seems to be that the world needs cyber-pranksters to keep old-school centers of power, like governments and big companies, in check. Cyber-activists are perceived to be the underdogs, flawed and annoying, perhaps, but standing up to overbearing power. It doesn't seem so to me. I actually take seriously the idea that the Internet can make non-traditional techie actors powerful.1 Therefore, I am less sympathetic to hackers when they use their newfound power arrogantly and non-constructively. This is an interesting difference in perception. A version of this story first appeared in the German magazine Focus. Every revolutionary these days must post a video online. The ideology that drives a lot of the online world -- not just Wikileaks but also mainstream sites like Facebook -- is the idea that information in sufficiently large quantity automatically becomes Truth.
Reactions ONI Team. With WikiLeaks dominating the media over the past two weeks, a number of the OpenNet Initiative's principals and staffers have commented publicly on the implications of the leaks on the Internet.
ONI co-principal investigator and director of the Citizen Lab Ron Deibert took part in the New York Times' 'Room for Debate,' responding to the question, "Even if WikiLeaks can be controlled, will others be motivated to flood the world with spilled secrets? " Deibert writes: WikiLeaks is only a symptom of a much larger phenomenon to which governments, businesses and individuals will all have to get accustomed. Our lives have been turned inside out by a digital world of our own spinning.
We will need new rules, norms and principles to adjust to this new environment. Harvard professor and ONI co-PI Jonathan Zittrain offers a Q&A, co-written with Berkman Center researcher Molly Sauter and published in MIT's Technology Review.