WikiLeaks: The end of the Internet as we know it?
The latest release of cables through the WikiLeaks website has rocked the diplomatic world, while making founder Julian Assange both a hero and a villain, depending on your point of view.
The site itself is the hottest destination on the web. WikiLeaks has 250,000 diplomatic cables which are being published on the site. Some good folks has even created a infographic on which country was discussed the most. Now, after the cables were leaked, every country knows what the US thinks about it. The diplomatic cables are anything but diplomatic.
Media outlets in the respective countries – including Indian media – are trying to make sense of the leaks and posting their analysis. My emphasis on Indian media was deliberate. Indian media, which turned a blind eye to the other famous leaks of Radia tapes, is actively covering WikiLeaks. I thought Indian media weren’t covering leaks to uphold their so called journalistic values. Looks like they have a choice.
WikiLeaks is bringing out most important information on earth. Though I am interested in the information, my interest is outside of it. Secret cables or not, WikiLeaks have raised some very potent questions. The kind of questions for which we might not find an answer. The kind of questions we would rather not ask. Let’s take a look.
The Internet as we know it, is it ending?
Sir Tim Berners Lee, the founder of the Internet, has written an article on the freedom of the Internet. Companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and Verizon, which are threatening privacy and neutrality, are creating islands which isn’t good. If these companies have their way then we are all doomed. Wired has an article about the obituary of the Internet which was severely rebuked across the web. Though the Internet founder and Wired.com are coming from two different ends of the spectrum, the theme is the same. The Internet – as we know it – is in danger. The WikiLeaks saga is the biggest evidence of that. Just a few companies wield enormous power. Something tells me that this is a bad thing.
Do few powerful organizations wield an enormous power?
EveryDNS has denied the DNS hosting for WikiLeaks because of the attacks on it. Security experts have said that this isn’t a sophisticated attack but an attack by a bunch of hackers with limited coding skills. That means means these kinds of attacks shouldn’t be new to EveryDNS. Yet it chose to deny service to WikiLeaks. PayPal, the amazing way to pay and get paid, has frozen WikiLeak’s account. WikiLeaks gets donations to keep the site running using PayPal. What does PayPal have to say about this? The government told us do it. Amazon, which provided a temporary hosting for WikiLeaks, has denied hosting after a Senator intervened. That’s just three companies which have brought an organization to a stand still.
The only thing which was working as it should, thankfully for WikiLeaks, is Twitter, Torrents and Google. When I search for WikiLeaks in Google, it points to a site with the IP address : 184.108.40.206. That’s not even a proper web address, yet Google chose to show it as the top result. Google could have tinkered with it but didn’t. Or at least I hope it didn’t. That probably is a good thing. There’s hope but not a whole lot. Remember Google is one of the four companies in Sir Tim Berner-Lee’s list of culprits.
Cloud computing – What do you think of it now?
Salesforce.com has launched a database on the cloud called database.com. Its main pitch – “Don’t worry about hosting your data, we will do it. Yeah well, good luck with that. But deep inside the disclaimers and the legal documents we might have slipped in a cause which says that, we can abandon you anytime we want or anytime our government wants. Now try sending in your 100,000 transactions for $10 per month to Database.com.” Imagine how it is for your data to be up there too along with the other stuff.
Is all information free information?
In other words should all information be shared? I was amazed at the impact Mr Assange had when his leak moved the election result by 10 percentage points in Kenya. That is the happy side of it. The sad side of it is WikiLeaks has published a document of key sites across the world which could potentially help the terrorists. I am not sure how true that is. I have lived in this world for the past 10 years and I don’t think it was any safer in the pre-Wikileaks era. Yet there still lingers a thought, should we need to know everything about everything?
Can you really stop the information flow on the Internet?
Of all the questions this could be the most important one and could probably save the Internet. When Wikileaks was taken down, it was immediately spawned in to multiple mirrors (more than 100) and the torrents are available everywhere. This is how powerful Internet as a medium can be to disseminate information. I am yet to be convinced that this key trait of Internet can be changed or challenged. You have an option to download Wikileaks to iPhone too.
Who has to monitor the monitors of the monitors?
I guess this is best described by the movie Enemy of State. Will Smith might not have known how it would feel like to be chased by the government as he was just acting. He should now make a phone call to Assange and get ready for a sequel. The title of the sequel would be – Enemy of Many States. Except Ecuador of course.
A government which monitors its own citizens through phone taps and the patriot acts is getting a taste of its own medicine. And it doesn’t like one bit of it. WikiLeaks is a monitor of the monitors. Should our monitors be monitored at all?
What is the so-called mainstream media doing?
How could a fledgling organization like WikiLeaks make such an impact in the past year when the media of the whole world hasn’t done a thing? I am not buying your journalistic values argument because I see you reading the leaks and writing columns about it. All this while, the so-called mainstream media or fourth estate or whatever fancy name they have these days, is sitting on their arses and getting fat cuts and doing nothing. I know for sure that’s is what some of the Indian media has been doing.
WikiLeaks has shown us what media can do and should do. The real question is, should we even trust the mainstream media? I am inclined to say no, but I want to hear your answers. Advertisers are standing by.
There you are, those are my questions and I am actively seeking answers for it. No. Hold on. I have one last one.
Would a non-reaction been a better reaction on this case?
This is kind of an old trick but given various government responses, this might still work. Let me try. Don’t think about a pink elephant? I know what you thought. Governments through various powers at its disposal has asked everyone to not think about WikiLeaks. That is exactly what everyone is thinking and searching right now. In spite of so much research on positive thinking and so many books written on it, we still have the brightest of the people falling to the stupidest of traps. What a shame.
PS : On a different note, if WikiLeaks was for sale, what would be its worth? Shouldn’t it be more valuable than Facebook or Twitter?