How WikiLeaks offers new format for global spread of information
By Matt Honold
“WikiLeaks is truly a revolutionary development in terms of democracy and transparency,” said Jeff Cohen, professor of journalism at Ithaca College and founder of the Park Center for Independent Media. “It’s an amazing use of new technology that opens a door to exposure of government and corporate abuse in a way that wasn’t conceivable 20 years ago.”
While most of America’s mainstream media are focused on the debated aspect of the issue —Is it crime or justice to breech confidentiality to expose wrongdoing?—others are interested in the content of leaks and the way they could change the format for the global spread of information.
Today, the Internet allows for leaks to be released in much higher quantities and on a global scale.
“The beauty of WikiLeaks,” Cohen said, “is that they claim this new technology will allow us to publish classified information because ‘We are an organization that is borderless and officeless, it’s hard for anyone to get at us and we can protect the anonymity of [our informants].’”
Yet one of their sources, Bradley Manning, was arrested for allegedly downloading a quarter million U.S. diplomatic cables on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he could serve life in prison if convicted. So clearly, it is important to discuss the criminality of leaking. Yet, a quick video search for “Julian Assange” on the websites of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC shows that most American news coverage on WikiLeaks is a sensational questioning of its place in the law.
Sarah Palin stated, “[h]e is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. Why was this not pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda or Taliban leaders?”
Chris Matthews has asked, “Can we stop this kind of behavior, this leaking and publicizing over the Internet of very sensitive material that embarrasses us, with the law?”
These pundits leave much to be said about the contents of leaks and how they may transform the standard of what the average person can know.
Kyle Drosdick, photojournalist for 2600 Magazine–The Hacker Quarterly, has had a passion for computers since he was a teenager during the mid ’90s. A believer in the free flow of information, he said, “People are trying a new way of distributing information, getting it to those who need [it], and allowing them to be mature enough to interpret it.”
Drosdick was exposed to the hacking community by reading 2600 and attending the magazine’s HOPE conferences (Hackers On Planet Earth), held every other year in New York City. In 2009, he quit his job as an auto-mechanic and began traveling across the globe to hacker “camps”, intended for the sharing of beliefs, ideas and fellowship within the hacking culture.
Drosdick said he has also learned that negative stigmas which paint hackers as villains are largely false. Rather, he said, their goal is “to get information to the people in a raw, unprocessed form so it can be taken into consideration by individuals, [because] our power comes from talking about the data and the truth.”
With raw documents, there is no opinion or political correctness that comes with mass media around the world. For example, the “Collateral Murder” video was featured regularly on foreign news networks, but rarely aired on American news stations. Drosdick maintains that while freedom of speech definitely exists in our country, it is often manipulated.
“People ought to use WikiLeaks the way they use any other journalistic source” Drosdick said, encouraging the informed citizen to “think like a hacker” in order to empower oneself within the capacity of technology.
Additionally, Jeff Cohen said, “I hope leaking government and corporate wrongdoing will become more common.”
Both men believe that exposing information allows us to further the media’s goals of improving democracy and furthering the conversation between the people and those in power. Of course diplomatic officials deserve a degree of privacy, but if opening the public’s eyes and ears can counter corruption, the future may hold a brand new understanding between the people and their government.
Matt Honold is a sophomore writing major who memorized your IP address. Email him at email@example.com.