Monday, October 25, 2010

Are Governments Immune From The Revelations of the Internet?...

The Internet is rooted in the sharing of information.  Like a small town of old, no one can keep secrets for long.  Everyone knows everything about each other.  Some governments, have sought to suppress this basic aspect of the Internet, by clamping down on the free sharing of ideas.  They have also sought to keep their secret information from leaking into it.  Will they succeed?

"...only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." Supreme Court, 1971
In a previous post, we have described the influence which advertising and money have on the report of the news in major media conglomerates.  There has been a rebellion against these media giants by a small group of dedicated journalists who wish the news to be independent of money and undue government influence.

The recent controversy concerning wikileaks is a perfect example of how governments cannot really control the Internet and never will.  Wikileaks sees themselves as following the tradition of Daniel Ellsberg in the The Pentagon Papers and the resulting Supreme Court Decision of 1971.  Their official position is stated on their homepage:
Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances - the internet, and cryptography - the risks of conveying important information can be lowered. Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to stronger scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency can provide. Wikileaks provides a forum for the entire global community to relentlessly examine any document for its credibility, plausibility, veracity and validity. Communities can interpret leaked documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community and diaspora can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context. Sample analyses are available here*****
The reason it is called wikileaks is because it uses a similar principle to wikipedia.  The idea is that the documents posted there can be annotated, commented upon by literally thousands or whoever has internet access.  It is the "wisdom of the crowds" concept (we will write a future post on this for those of you who do not understand it).  By this kind of mass vigilance and comments, they hope to keep world governments more honest.
We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government. That is why the time has come for an anonymous global avenue for disseminating documents the public should see.
How are the whistleblowers protected?  By sophisticated Internet protocols of encryption and the use of the TOR network.
Wikileaks incorporates advanced cryptographic technologies to ensure anonymity and untraceability. Those who provide leaked information may face severe risks, whether of political repercussions, legal sanctions or physical violence. Accordingly, sophisticated cryptographic and postal techniques are used to minimize the risks that anonymous sources face.
The idea is one which tried to liberate nations from the power of media corporate conglomerates, by taking their editorials out of the news itself.  Again we must quote:
...Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to a much more exacting scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency could provide: the scrutiny of a worldwide community of informed wiki editors.  In an important sense, Wikileaks is the first intelligence agency of the people. Better principled and less parochial than any governmental intelligence agency, it is able to be more accurate and relevant. It has no commercial or national interests at heart; its only interest is the revelation of the truth. Unlike the covert activities of state intelligence agencies, Wikileaks relies upon the power of overt fact to enable and empower citizens to bring feared and corrupt governments and corporations to justice.  Wikileaks will aid every government official, every bureaucrat, and every corporate worker, who becomes privy to embarrassing information that the institution wants to hide but the public needs to know. What conscience cannot contain, and institutional secrecy unjustly conceals, Wikileaks can broadcast to the world.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, all sides would agree that many media conglomerates "taint" the news, or fail to mention what many would consider important news events.  So the this idea should be welcome by all.  What is critical to understand is that this idea can only work in a world in which the Internet exists.  We will not get involved in whether this kind of site, endangers lives (which it might), or whether the fact that its editor has mentioned names of people involved in covert activities, which fact, might get them killed is a valid criticism (we believe it is).  On the other hand, if a government is conducting covert activities, that its people, if they knew of them,  would not approve of, and then, tries to use the excuse, that these kinds of leaks endanger lives, such a  government, would find themselves in a gross contradiction.

The Internet is a two-edged sword for would be tyrannical governments.  It is a threat to secrecy of all kinds, but most of all, to that kind of secrecy which goes against the wishes of the people of that nation, and which might not be, in their long term bests interests.  For those who see the Internet only in terms of a control mechanism, this is proof that it can be used for the cause of truth, as one might see it.  You can see here an excellent discussion of the issue of whether a government can censor its people effectively from accessing any site on the Internet.

Alternative or Independent Media Outlets
We are posting a more complete listing of alternative or independent media outlets based on their political views (left and right):

Left Centered Media Outlets:

Right Centered Media Outlets:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.