The morning’s Internet buzz centers on the White House reaction over WikiLeaks, the controversial three year old website (that’s been likened to media insurgency no less) who published Sunday evening more than 91,000 secret documents pertaining to U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks, who collects and posts highly classified documents and video, was started by Melbourne born (go Aussies!) Julian Assange. The rogue Internet activist, self-described as the “editor-in-chief”, has been releasing documents and videos ranging from operating procedure at Guantanamo Bay, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account (oh boy!). What’s amazing is WikiLeaks has no paid staff, no copywriter and no office.
THE NEW YORKER profiled WikiLeak last month, and what Julian describes as his push for “full transparency.” What I found incredibly interesting amongst all of the hoopla this has caused, is the most crafty and unprecedented journalistic integrity check I’ve ever seen. Sort of the ultimate CALL TO ACTION for mainstream news if you will.
I’ll explain: yesterday evening, before the documents were published, WikiLeak provided the database of information to the New York Times, the German weekly Der Spiegel, and British publication The Guardian. Now, this was said by WikiLeak to be “in an (effort)….to reduce the risk of gagging by the authorities…”
Okay, I can buy that. But does anyone else see what else they put into play here? It’s pretty darn savvy if you ask me. They basically threw down the gauntlet of journalistic integrity. By giving the information to the three publications, securely, preemptively and publicly, they basically dared them to ignore it. Dared them to report it inaccurately. Dared them to ignore the “position” That position: THE TRUTH.
Hmmm…we’ve all seen different arguments recently about how the Internet, while democratizing information, has also diluted the overall credibility and integrity of information. We just had a perfect example of this last week with the Shirley Sherrod debacle. I can certainly see arguments from both sides. The question remains, does a platform like WikiLeak, hurt or harm our efforts to have more truth and accountability in the media? We all know that nothing moves forward without a little competition right? But is this the right type of competition?
Check out this recent TED talk with Julian Assange about why he feels the world needs WikiLeaks.
All my best,