Targeting WikiLeaks: A Mistake
To take a stance on WikiLeaks would be futile. The camps are now well-defined, and the arguments for and against Julian Assange’s website have been fleshed out. But despite how multifaceted the discussion concerning Wikileaks, national security and confidentiality has become, I think the real issue is that WikiLeaks is symptomatic.
After all, Julian Assange does not operate in a bubble. When credit card companies attempted to stifle donations to WikiLeaks, anonymous hackers swarmed to the rescue, completely unsolicited. The credit card companies had a reason to try and stifle WikiLeaks, a vested interest in stunting the growth of the project. But these hackers do not have a vested interest in anything at all. They may ideologically identify with Assange, but they do not stand to profit from his endeavor. In other words, they are volunteers.
In a web-world dominated by cooperative interactive platforms—Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter—individuals come together without any outside compulsion. Editors on Wikipedia operate for no reason other than to spread knowledge. Twitter updates are created by individuals just for the sake of keeping people in the loop. Essentially, we take pleasure in producing something that is useful to other people. And while the Internet has been quoted as being “a corporate sphere that tolerates free speech,” it’s hard to see how the corporations have a choice. The services that they offer fundamentally hinge on speech being actually free—they just wouldn’t work otherwise. All of these websites do have comprehensive privacy policies, which explicitly forbid certain types of speech, including the ones that would fall under WikiLeaks’ purview.
But with hackers, the rules rarely mean anything. The Internet, by design, fundamentally opposes such restrictions. Corporations attempting to block consumer access to media has rarely worked in the past. One need look no further than Sony’s pathetic DRM campaign to see an example of how censorship on the World Wide Web is destined to failure. WikiLeaks’ perceived immunity is nothing special—it’s just the result of being a website on the Internet. As a platform that fosters speech, government intervention can only do so much. If Assange is taken down, others will rise in his stead. After all, suing Shawn Fanning might have dispensed of Napster, but it by no means dispensed of illegal file sharing. If the government, corporations, head conspirator of the New World Order, wants to silence Julian Assange, they ought to remember that he has powerful friends.