Search This Blog

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Wikileaks and lessons for an open internet….

The cables keep coming, and all efforts to stop them seem to be failing
This blog post can be read at

Earlier this week the release of diplomatic cables was gong head-to-head with the snow in the race to claim the lead story on the National news. It was only when Gatwick Airport closed and the trains of southern England gave up the ghost did the those pesky geeks releasing all those embarrassing factoids and opinions of career diplomats get shunted out of the lead spot on the BBC news.

There are a couple of things to say right at the start, one if that much of the stuff being revealed is blindingly obvious…. Prince Andrew lets his mouth go, Kim Jung Il is a "flabby old chap", and Silvio Berlusconi was "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader"…. Yes I think we could have worked that out, or at least heard these observations on Radio 4’s excellent From Our Own Correspondent….

The more interesting stuff is the trivial anecdote, like the fact that a large batch of highly enriched uranium was left on a runway in Libya following a fit of pique by the country's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi… now that is scary.

In a way these diplomatic cables read just like the documents released every Christmas under the 30 year rule, and that is possibly of more interest to historians than journalists.

What is interesting to watch is the way that those whose cables are being leaked, and who also believe that they control the Internet have reacted. They have tried to close down the Wikileaks website, with little success, they have tried to stop it gaining funding by getting Paypal to refuse to pass on funds…. That too will probably have little effect.

They are now going after the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with a charge of sexual assault from the authorities in Sweden.

The allegations may be true, they may be completely false, time, and perhaps the courts will tell. One person seems to have been completely forgotten about in this, and that is the woman who has made the allegations. She has the right to be taken seriously, just as has any other victim of sexual assault.

If this is an allegation which has been made and made-up, simply to get Mr Assannge out of the way, then it is a gross insult to any woman who has suffered a sexual assault, and the authorities should go after him with a charge which is directly related to the leaking of the material.

The main point of all of this is that the leaked cables have probably done no more than cause the establishment some embarrassment. Once again the real issue here is that the internet has dumped something on `those who were born to rule us’ which they don’t understand, and can’t control. That may be viewed by many as a good thing.

The trick in the future for those setting up community networks will be to tread that fine line between, open expression, resisting those in authority and excercising responsibility


GuyJ said...

Bruce Sterling had something valuable to say about the balance of power between spooks and geek way back in 2001 that holds as valid today for community networks.

This is particularly so as Big Society and Big Government approach a convergence that may be happy union and maybe train wreck...

MB94128 said...

GuyJ - Thanks for the following link :
"Viridian Note 00283: Geeks and Spooks"(Bruce Sterling, 20 Nov.'01)

Re : Mr. Assange
I agree the women at the wrong end of a sex crime are due some respect. However, there's been a report that those ladies made on-the-record statements to their friends of having consensual sex with him. Also, it seems that there may be a quirk in Swedish law that turns consensual sex into rape if the guy didn't use a condom. I suspect that we may never hear the full story - just enough to leave an ugly cloud over everybody involved.

Mark Holdstock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Holdstock said...

I found this article by John Naughton in the Guardian a very interesting read....

Live with the WikiLeakable world or shut down the net. It's your choice

It suggests that bit-torrent may be the way ahead to wrestle the internet away from corporate control