The Wikileak in the Government

Max Gredinger
Professor Charles
TRF 235
20 February 2011

Wikileaks was created in 2006 and was based upon the premise that nothing is off limits.  Government papers or unedited war video footage was all on limits through their website for any citizen to access.  Julian Assange, the sites creator, believed that the government should not own any stamps that say “Confidential” on them, but instead everything should be completely out in the open for the public to consume as they wish.  In December of 2010, the website was shut down.  This particular case begs the following questions, what is the limit to free speech on the Internet, and what effect has Wikileaks had on Internet and governments oversight of the world wide web.

In order to completely understand the Wikileaks case, one has to know the background of both Julian Assange as well as what he created with Wikileaks.  “The most important website in the world right now isn’t Facebook, Google or Twitter but one that’s lifting the lid on the machinations of governments the world over… Wikileaks, for good or bad, is offering up the truth in a way that’s not been seen before.”  Over the years, Wikileaks has exposed some things that the government and other private organizations have not wanted anyone to get their holds on.  They released “the collected secret ‘bibles’ of Scientology,” Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo email account was leaked on the site in 2008, much to her dismay, and their biggest leak in their history occurred in late November of 2010 when they released over 250,000 US government documents for the public to download (Wikileaks).  The future of Wikileaks, and exactly how the government decides to handle their existence could be an incredibly influential case as to what exactly the limits of free speech are, and what kind of influence the government has as to what goes on the Internet.

The Wikileaks situation will have incredible impact as to how the general public views government, and will be a large statement as to how much power government has over the average citizen.  It seems as though the public is on Assange’s side, “#wikileaks” was trending on Twitter for a great deal of time, and the Wikileaks Facebook fan page has over 1,600,000 “likes” on it.  There was controversy on both of these sites as to whether or not their accounts would be shut down because of the battle that Wikileaks was going through with the government, but both Twitter and Facebook looked into the situation and ultimately determined that Wikileaks does not violate any of the terms of use of either of the sites.  This decision to keep the pages on both social networking sites was very well received by the fans on both of these social networking sites.  There could quite possibly be large public outcry if the government chooses to further harass Wikileaks existence, and this could quite easily determine exactly how much control the government has over the general public.  Wikileaks could argue that they want free speech on the web, and although free speech exists, there are often questions as to exactly how far it goes.  There is a free flow of information that is available on the internet, and taking out a major website that was simply exercising its free speech to a great extent may be justified, but will not go without large scrutiny from the public, particularly fans of Wikileaks.  Wikileaks has not only released information that was crucial to how government operates, but they did something that could worry the government even more than their well being, Wikileaks embarrassed the government by showing it can be penetrated by the average citizen, which could cause even more incentive for the government to shut them down for good.   The government was not very secretive either about their anger with Wikileaks, P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman said “we believe that hundreds of people have been put at potential risk because their names have been compromised in the release of these cables” (New York Times). Wikileaks posted some of the governments most confidential files and political gossip for the public to consume, and made it so government is not an untouchable watch dog in Washington, but instead an organization that its people can look at and know the details of.

As the situation surrounding Wikileaks continues to shape, we will soon find out the limit to free speech on the Internet and what the government can oversee.  Either way it turns out, Assange is going to be idolized forever by fans of free speech and open government, and will long be idolized as a brilliant anarchist.  Even after being shut down, a new site appeared with a Twitter post from the WIkileaks account that said the following “WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number: http://88.80.13.160” which is the new Wikileaks site.  Assange’s future and the future of this new Wikileaks site remain to be seen, but however it does end up turning out will be a large statement as to where the future of the Internet and free speech are heading.

Bibliography

Chacksfield, Marc. “Wikileaks: 8 biggest leaks in its history | News | TechRadar UK.” TechRadar UK | Technology News And Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/wikileaks-8-biggest-leaks-in-its-history-911493>.

Wikileaks. (2010, December 3). WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number: http://88.80.13.160 (Twitter post). Retrieved from http://twitter.com/#!/wikileaks/status/10621245489938433

“Wikileaks: Keep Us Strong.” Wikileaks. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <wikileaks.ch/>.

Mackey, Robert. “WikiLeaks: No Harm, No Foul.” NYTimes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/u-s-officials-reportedly-said-wikileaks-revelations-were-not-damaging/>.

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