2010 in Tech: The WikiLeaks Saga

by Jordan Richardson on December 28, 2010

We unfortunately didn’t talk about this story too much here at The Telecom Blog, but no wrap-up of the year in technology would be complete without mentioning the WikiLeaks saga.

It is a story of freedom of the press and of the power of technology. It drills away at the black heart of government secrets, unleashing debates about how much the public has the “right to know” about government activities and how much the government can get away with.

The WikiLeaks saga is perhaps the purest example of “new journalism,” engaging us with its relentless stream of “cables” in unfiltered bunches and courageously putting the information out in the open – even in the face of death threats and political scrambling. It is “old-time journalism” at its finest, exemplifying the notion of the big story and meshing it with the unimpeachable aspects of modern tech and social networking.

WikiLeaks originally launched in 2006 to little fanfare. It claimed a database of 1.2 million documents within the first year. Its original intent was along the lines of a user-edited site, but it evolved into that of a more traditional publication. It wasn’t until April of 2010 that WikiLeaks became a part of the international lexicon, however.

The release of video from a 2007 Baghdad airstrike revealed that journalists and Iraqi civilians were fired upon and killed by U.S. forces. From there, the Afghan War Diary was released in July and tens of thousands of documents came to light for public review. In October, another batch of documents were made available to the public. These were the Iraqi War Logs. Both are now searchable on the WarLogs page.

In November of 2010, WikiLeaks released the largest package of documents to date with the U.S. diplomatic cables. These documents came to light starting in bunches on November 28. Perhaps the most controversial of all of the leaks from the site, the documents feature private and secret information in the form of classified documents from the State Department of the U.S.

The leak caused the American government to warn other governments around the world as to the potential content of the documents. Various American and Canadian politicians expressed their displeasure, stating that their release risked national security and the sanctity of international relations.

Regardless of how one feels about the leaks politically or about Assange, their existence changes the game for journalists. These leaks represent pure information, sans gutless commentary and submissive filtering, and the public can peruse the volumes of cables and documents at any time.

Users began to copy and circulate the documents around torrent sites. The way the information spread is perhaps a more compelling tale than the leaks themselves, as the internet user became truly in control of his or her informational destiny. How this story will play out in 2011 remains to be seen, but from the sounds of things we can look forward to more information, more secrets revealed and more leaks.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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