Recently, I was at a networking event where I was questioned as a technical professional on my opinion of WikiLeaks.
The News Media and Government have had a historical love-hate relationship. The roots of investigative journalism began as early as journalism itself – pioneered by Nellie Bly in 1887. Investigative journalists employ unconventional methods to achieve their ends. Journalists are able to create a form of accountability that is lacking in formal legislation. Until now, the law is able to exact accountability in the cases of journalistic and media abuse.
WikiLeaks operates in a new international realm that exists between the laws of the countries that host its servers. We are missing the reciprocal accountability incumbent upon journalists. “We live in an age when people can do some good things and people can do some terrible things,” said Judge Jeffrey White, “without accountability necessarily in the court of law.”
WikiLeaks seems to have begun in the truest form of the courageous, altruistic tradition of the investigative journalist “…We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices…” Time Magazine at one time believed in its potential: “[WikiLeaks] Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”
It seemed like “good things” were happening as a result of the use of technology. Perhaps the adage: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…” prevailed. It may be that when Assange set up WikiLeaks he had good intentions. It takes a certain kind of risk-taking, altruistic, defender-of-the-people personality to establish a WikiLeaks. However, these same character traits are also vulnerable to the temptations of power. When the balance between freedom of the press and the constraints of accountability is lost, abuse is the inevitable outcome.
What is the final outcome of all of this? I don’t know.
If you have any forecasts or thoughts or opinions, I would welcome your comments to this post.