Wikileaks, Whistle-blowing & Online Censorship

By Becca Caddy

On Sunday a great deal of sensitive information was revealed on Wikileaks, leading to an international diplomatic crisis. But what will this mean for the future of whistle-blowing and online censorship?

More than 250,000 confidential documents have been obtained by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks and are set to be released in stages over the next few months.

Among other things, the US embassy cables that have been made available so far suggest that US diplomats are involved in spying on the UN leadership, a British royal has offended the Americans by his inappropriate behaviour and Arab leaders are urging an air strike on Iran. The documents also reveal Washington’s critical stance on many other highly sensitive issues involving countries and leaders worldwide.

According to the Guardian, the White House released a statement condemning the release of the cables:

"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.

Although some of the information was already considered to be public knowledge, the revelation has been both fascinating and unnerving in equal measures and there are clearly mixed reactions to the news.

There are many who see this as a positive step and feel that the public should have access to this kind of information, regardless of how sensitive it may be. The Internet is praised for being a platform for free speech and freedom of information and in effect, sites like Wikileaks uphold this to no end.

However, there are those who see this as what it is, a security breach. However naïve it may seem, the truth is we are very quick to criticise and condemn those in power and maybe too many people are overlooking the fact that these secret documents were kept secret for good reason.

Whatever your view on the recent incident, Wikileaks and whistle-blowing generally, it will undoubtedly bring about change to the way the Internet is used as a vehicle to disseminate sensitive information.

It worries me that these kinds of incidents could be an excuse for governments all over the globe to take a firmer hold on what’s said, shared and revealed online. If this recent leak becomes the international crisis that the media suggest it will be, then who knows how much of the Internet could be subject to censorship and regulation in the future.

Becca Caddy is a BitchBuzz Tech columnist and freelance writer for Reputation Online, New Media Age’s spin-off publication. You can follow her on Twitter  @beccacaddy.

Image via Stevendepolo’s Flickr Stream

Tue, 30 Nov 2010 10:00 (GMT+00)
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