LeWeb: The media and Wikileaks

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Adrian Monck

Adrian Monck is chairing a media panel, and inevitably we’re focusing on WikiLeaks.

We’ve always had leaks, says Julio Alonso of Weblogs S. “The WikiLeaks phenomenon is not new, but it has a different form. ” The closing of Amazon and PayPal accounts , the problems with wikileaks DNS, are showing us where the weak links in the online chain. They’re also raising the issue of who applies and decides on the limits.

Pierre Chappaz of Wikio thinks that this is a defining moment. This is, if you like, the first skirmish in a global infowar. Monck challenges that, suggesting that we’ve seen many governments try to shut things down, but Chappaz’s point is this is the first global incident.

Gabe Rivera suggests that there’s so much in common with what wikileaks is doing and what traditional newspapers are doing that we should be concerned. And Ben Rooney returns to Alonso’s point that DNS, in particular, is the weak link in the internet’s chain, the thing that breaks the “routing around barriers” theory that it was designed for.

Chappez points out that it’s ludicrous that Wikileaks itself is being targeted in this way, while the newspapers that republished the material are left alone.

Gabe Rivera

Rivera thinks that the censorship efforts are essentially doomed. There are too many potential co-publishers, he suggests. If Twitter closes down the account listing the torrents, there’s Facebook, or they could go somewhere else. And Rooney agrees, calling a game of international whack-a-mole that’s futile.

Chappaz declared his support for a self-regulated internet, in response to a question from Monck asking if we need a body to protect leaking. The audience, broadly, seems to support the optimistic position that attempts to close down Wikileaks won’t adversely affect leaking online in the long term. However, Alonso points out that every week he’s getting cease and desist letters and complaints from companies that don’t like their coverage. This is only going to increase because they see the government doing the say. But, as Rooney quite rightly points out, that’s not new. Journalists have been living with that for decades.

Rivera thinks that the national newspapers that have worked with Wikileaks have done well out of this, and isn’t worried by Monck’s suggestion that it’s disappointing that it’s old media rather than new doing that. “Newer sites will have their day,” he says.

Following a question from the audience, Alonso thinks that the western government have lost their moral authority over many governments with poor records on censorship who can, quite rightly, now refuse criticism on the basis that those making the criticism do exactly the same thing…

We are still a democracy, points out Chappaz, and with democracy comes justice. It is yet to be proved legally that Wikileaks has done anything as yet.


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.