Sunday, February 06, 2011

Editorial: The short life of WikiLeaks

Imagine if information was really free. Imagine if you discovered some great offense, passed on proof of it and it was all over the net with your supporting evidence.

Once upon a time, WikiLeaks promised to be that sort of outlet. That quickly changed.

In our October 24, 2010 edition, eight of our eleven article were on WikiLeaks. Coverage continued in October 31st edition. And while we defended WikiLeaks, we also had problems with it. Last Monday, in the "Iraq snapshot," C.I. addressed some of them.


WikiLeaks was supposed to use the web to free information but as 2010 progressed, WikiLeaks stopped doing that. Instead of posting information and freeing it, they began censoring. For weeks and weeks, old media news outlets were allowed to review documents that were censored from the public, allowed to prepare stories on those documents and then, when the stories were published, often the source documents still weren't available at WikiLeaks.

What was supposed to be a celebration of the information advances of the web instead became a holding pen allowing old media to have 'scoops.'

With the October release, Julian Assange publicly began insulting websites and blogs, insisting that they were not amplifying the stories. (This site covered the WikiLeaks revelations and, at The Common Ills, C.I. spent two weeks covering the Iraq aspect of the October release.) What Assange didn't understand was he had removed new media from the mix except as a megaphone saying, "Check out this story at . . ."

Earlier in 2010, WikiLeaks released a video. The video became a huge internet staple and websites and blogs repeatedly covered the video. In addition, NPR programs picked up on it, some papers picked up on it, TV news picked up on it. That was the model WikiLeaks preached -- even after Assange decided to abandon the model.

Along the way, Assange began to think of the documents people risked their jobs and possibly more to turn over to WikiLeaks (so that they would be released) as his documents, began claiming ownership of them and not just in meetings with The Guardian's staff and attorneys but also with regards to release dates.

For a moment, for just one moment, picture yourself were at Bank of America. You know of cooked books, double dealings, contributions to the country's financial collapse. You make copies of files. And you turn them over to WikiLeaks.

Did you do that to get the information out?

Or did you do that so that Julian Assange could spend months teasing journalists and cautioning that, should anything happen to him, these documents are coming out?

What is supposed to be public information is instead being hidden away by Julian Assange.

A number of people with WikiLeaks have now left the company. That's completely understandable because what is called WikiLeaks today long ago left what it claimed to be and what it claimed to stand for.
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