WikiLeaks, Internet And Responsibility

This morning I had an interesting conversation with my dad while I was having my morning coffee and WikiLeaks came up. Conversations like this are not rare, and they usually involve current political and economic events, a bit of sore sarcasm and the lift version of his and my thought on the topic at hand.

Today we talked about WikiLeaks and the recent release of documents concerning the US Department of State and possible repercussions afterwards. He said something that hit me like a train ” It’s (meaning WikiLeaks) like trying to renovate an old house. But you actually do not know if the wall or the brick you are trying to remove won’t cause the whole lot to crumble”.

I am a sucker for freedom of speech. I regard it up there as having the same value as the freedom to breathe. But there is always that tricky part that comes afterwards – how your words affect society’s rest. One can brag as much as he/she wants, but the banter should not cause major physical and psychological pains to the humans around.

I am sure that every intelligent person on this planet has questioned at least once the acts of governments and why things are the way they are. Ever since the Cold War ended and there was no more “evil Commies” to fight, the geopolitical map was ruled only by one king – Her Majesty USA. And why not? There is no other country that can measure to her with the same political and economic power. USSR is dead. China is growing, but it takes time. India has one too many problems internally to be focused on external policy.

But enough of political banter. Let’s talk about the Internet! There is no other medium that can place many users the information you want them to see in front of that many users. Naturally, they have to want to reach it, but that’s off-topic. Forget about TV, radio or print media! One piece of 10101010 coded information is available to Mahmud in Dhaka, Maria in Chile, Carsten in Denmark and Mbeki in South Africa. Millions and millions around the world can read it, form an opinion and take action.

Imagine the distress that all these diplomatic mail can cause and how harmful to all of us it can be. No, I am not talking about the fact that the mentioned wrongdoings should not be punished and that the way we are not should not change dramatically. I am talking about the fact that things can easily get out of control. Humans tend to be very proud of themselves, nationalistic and private. Not everyone can be taken out of their comfort zone and expected to be cool about it. Some are ready to go to the extreme to go back to that moment they felt safe.

Every blog, article, document or status update never really goes away when deleted. It stays somewhere and can be reached. So the publisher of any content should ask him/herself a simple question – What is the aftermath of me publishing this piece of information?

Google lost the battle in China long before they pissed a government official off. Actually, what happened was an excellent PR  for the search engine.  USA’s government clearly focuses on forceful diplomacy, and I don’t need to see an official correspondence to be sure of that. War brings the evil in men, so no wonder there are civilian casualties and disastrous wrongdoings.

However, I need to see concrete steps towards ensuring that action will be taken towards ensuring that there is indeed such thing as accountability in government power abuse. I need to see that humanity is led by people with humane moral values. But not by seeing a global crisis that might as well turn in to a third world war or another global economic crisis. Oh, and while we are at that, it strikes me as funny that Julian Assange is accused of sexual crimes exactly at this particular moment…

Although I am terribly appalled by the extent of this shit storm, I can’t help but be quite worried.

What is your opinion? Is this the way to fight and change the machine?

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Copyright © 2010 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.

2 Comments

  1. Eric Reiss December 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Your father’s analogy with the brick is absolutely correct. You never know what will happen when you do something…

    Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar” shows how “truth” is not always the best course of action.

    The 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded for “analyses of markets with asymmetric information”

    Whistle-blowing is, in my opinion, often a good thing. If I think wrong-doing is taking place, then it should be exposed. In fact, I was fired for whistle-blowing in 2000 – the advertising agency at which I worked had cheated a client. I told my boss and was given the axe. Even so, eleven years later, I stand by my actions and still have a great deal of contempt for some of my former colleagues.

    But jeopardizing security by giving secrets to an enemy is indeed treason. A soldier sneaking up on an enemy outpost can lose his life if his position is revealed – that’s the down-to-earth analogy. Some of what happens on Wikileaks is essentially the same thing, just on a much larger scale.

    To justify treasonous activities under freedom of speech is unfair. Like you, Borislav, I fight constantly to defend freedom of speech. But I do not use this right to justify offending others. This is where the Danish cartoons went wrong: you can justify an offensive action by decrying “freedom of speech”. But that does not relieve you of the ethical and moral obligation you have.

    And this brings us back to Jim Carrey’s dilemma in “Liar, liar”. Not all truths need to be revealed.

    Oddly enough, sometimes protecting the rights of the individual actually means withholding information. WikiLeaks is providing a conduit for the distribution of privaleged information. But without ethical and moral regulation (or self-regulation), the application with ultimately fail.

    1. Borislav Kiprin December 3, 2010 at 11:04 am

      Eric, I am glad that you saw through the nonsensical banter and got right to the issue. Freedom of speech has a enormous amount of responsibility attached to it. Actually, in my book these two go together along with some thinking before actually feeling free to speak. 😉

      I liked your “privileged information” expression. Most of the stuff I read on WikiLeaks can cause real people to be hurt badly. Let’s hope that this will not be the case!

      I guess it takes the first seven years of everybody’s life to develop that self-regulation and the rest of the human being’s life to perfect it. By the way applying moral regulation to another person often results into trigger-happy individuals. I just wish people were more responsible when it comes to publishing anything on the web.

      Thanks for the comment, by the way!