The war that may change the world: WikiLeaks and the Internet versus all that is opaque

Posted by Knowlton Thomas

Government. Private corporations. Monopolies and oligopolies. Liars, sneaks, and criminals.

These are the people and organizations that shudder if you whisper in their ear the word "transparency." It is distinctly to their personal advantage to have as much as possible as opaque as possible. And this, for a long, long time, has been all to easy.

WikiLeaks has changed this.

While perhaps not the most intimidating name, "WikiLeaks" now strikes fear through the hearts of everyone with something to hide. That's because the non-profit new media organization has made public millions of secret and private documents from major corporations and federal governments over the past four years.

WikiLeaks has faced numerous hardships since inception, with myriad companies just aching to embed an axe into the shoulder of this revolutionary movement. But shit really hit the fan when WikiLeaks recently released more than 250,000 United States embassy cables, "the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain."

This "unprecedented insight into the U.S. Government's foreign activities" has triggered an earthquake: Amazon, which the WikiLeaks website ran under as WikiLeaks.org, was shut down after the U.S. government pressured the online retail giant to sever its ties with the highly controversial company. Then, after being denied various donations from companies due to its controversial nature, had donations blocked by PayPal, and subsequently MasterCard and Visa.

WikiLeaks has faced so much heat since its November released of the cables that it's now no longer a wiki and runs on an IP address instead of a regular web address, with well over 1,000 official mirrors. The U.S. government is now thoroughly investigating the company and no one doubts it will sue for every possible breach of law it can in an impassioned bid to break the organization's bank and collapse WikiLeaks once and for all.

But it may prove futile. What makes WikiLeaks possible is the internet - without a communication channel so unprecedented in its global ubiquity, leaks of this nature would never reach large audiences quickly enough to impact the world, nor would people be able to so easily and anonymously submit leaks. The omnipresence of the internet has altered the very fibre of this planet's social cloth - and that's something that organizations founded on secrecy never prepared for. Even if WikiLeaks is slain, so long as the internet lives, a phoenix will rise like from the ashes.

As WikiLeaks deftly puts it, "Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society's institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations." Unmotivated by profit, the seemingly altruistic WikiLeaks has "provided a new model of journalism." 

Times are tenuous at best for WikiLeaks, as it stands in the face of its most extreme adveristy since beginning in 2006. But as it prepares to fight this most difficult battle, it also boasts more support than ever before: after Facebook deleted its fanpage with 30,000 fans, WikiLeaks later rebirthed itself on the site, and in barely a week has accumulated nearly 1,200,000 fans to become the fastest-growing page on the social network.

Support will be needed to defend the transparency WikiLeaks has worked so hard to achieve. According to its own website, "WikiLeaks has sustained and triumphed against legal and political attacks designed to silence our publishing organisation, our journalists, and our anonymous sources."

This is perhaps a different strike than WikiLeaks is used to deflecting, but if it if successful in surviving the blow, then transparency will become more powerful than ever. WikiLeaks is a formidable knight in shining armour in the internet kingdom, but this is a war, not a joust. And all eyes are on the arena because outcome may change everything.

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys playing tennis, hiking, and exploring weird side streets. more



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