Wikileaks Opens Its Archive


It came out on Twitter at 9:21pm EST so it may be awhile before it comes to fruition. The Twitter feed for Wikileaks certainly indicates that this is the mother lode coming out, but considering the recent leak of their own material it is hard to say. (As an aside, I wonder the people who were involved in the Wikileaks resolution for ALA will think of this gigantic disclosure.)

Certainly, it is something to watch. I cringe at the potential revelations contained within and the possibility that people will get hurt or killed from it, but another part of me is excited and curious for the insights that will be found. I certainly hope that there will be some curation of this 60gb collection for the benefit of future generations.

As the Wikileaks Turns… Ctd.

From The Atlantic:

Corporate control over speech is nothing new. Authors and journalists in the pre-digital age were dependent on publishers willing to disseminate their work — without publishing support, they were mere street corner pamphleteers. As free speech advocates might have said a quarter-century ago, "Offline Speech is Only as Strong as the Weakest Intermediary;" and, in fact, media critics have been writing about the dangers of marketplace censorship and media conglomeration for years. Still, recent demonstrations of corporate power over WikiLeaks seemed to resonate with the force of revelation, mocking any lingering illusions of the Internet as a frontier free from corporate as well as state control.

The author, Wendy Kaminer, goes on to make some excellent points about the power of corporations in influencing online speech. From being able to offer powerhouse platforms for writers to their interconnectedness with government to acting on their own corporate interests, free expression on the internet has more than governments to contend with when it comes to online speech. It’s not simply a matter of finding a free expression country, but always contending with corporations who own webspace or network nodes being supportive of free expression as well.

It’s a quick read, but well worth the time.

Why Wikileaks Matters to Libraryland

From NPR:

"This is the biggest free speech battle of our lifetimes," says Marcia Hoffman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is the moment when we will see whether publishers can continue to freely distribute truthful political information online."

While some might find the statement of this EFF attorney to be a bit of hyperbole, there is an undeniable underlying idea being tested here: the scope of information distribution in the digital age. It is important because what happens now has implications for the dissemination of controversial information in the future. While we in the United States enjoy excellent free speech rights, the rules of expression can changes dramatically outside of the country. This is certainly not a new notion or concept; however, within the international framework of the internet, it creates its own new unique dynamic.

It matters to libraryland for several important reasons. First, in expanding our holdings to include digital collections, we are becoming more reliant on content that is delivered via the internet. While we may not be collecting the kind of sensitive information that Wikileaks has been publishing, the important notion is that there are individuals, corporations, and governments who could potentially exercise control over any point in the connection from the server to the end user. Not only could local officials pull the plug on a server or block traffic, but internet service providers (ISPs) could be pressured into not allowing traffic to move their networks. Or ISPs could regulate the amount and type of traffic that goes through their servers. (Think Comcast vs. Netflix, only with streaming video databases.) While there are ways around such things (mirrors for servers, rerouting of traffic for connections), it is up to the profession to be vigilant for such actions taken against digital information providers. It’s crucial to combat disruptions wherever they might be.

Second, the Wikileaks case represents the adage that once something is online it can be very hard (if not impossible) to fully remove. This is an important lesson as we seek to teach our patrons (especially the up and coming generations) about the implications of the online world in regards to privacy and personal content online. While this is not meant as a stern warning against putting anything online, it is a lesson about being vigilant about what gets put online. The most obvious lessons revolve around embarrassing Facebook updates, pictures of drunkenness and illegal activity, and unauthorized sharing of nude cell phone or digital photographs, but it extends to other potentially reputation damaging online postings. This is about teaching people about the positives and the perils of online life and how to take care of themselves in the new information age. If we are going to show our patrons the wonders of social media, we should do our best to put them on the path to good net citizenship.

Third, and what I consider to be most important point, if we as a profession are interested in the availability of literacy and information to the greatest number of people, we are going to have to fight for it. There are plenty of worthy causes for you to pick from: net neutrality, proprietary ebook platforms and/or formats, rural broadband access, book challenges/removals, unequal vendor pricing schemes and practices, and the granddaddy of them all, funding. While not all in the profession may agree with the practices or publishing of Wikileaks, we do share a common cause in trying to share information that is meant to educate and enlighten. In going forth under this ideal, librarians must be willing to take up the banner and fight for these causes. Not simply for the sake of the library as an institution, but for the best of what is yet to come in a digital information future. What this represents goes well beyond the doors of the library and encompasses the world at large.

For that, we must struggle, toil, and fight the good fight.

As the Wikileaks Turns…

If you are going to read any two articles about the Wikileaks phenomena right now, I highly recommend this Glenn Greenwald article regarding the disconnect between what the media and the government are saying about the cables and what is actually being released by Wikileaks. It’s an eye-opener, for certain, because it corrects some of the stories that are being perpetuated throughout this whole hype laden story. I don’t always agree with Mr. Greenwald on some issues, but his attention to the facts of a matter is impeccable.

The other article to read is Julian Assange’s op-ed piece in The Australian. It’s an interesting takedown of the governmental critics of the project and what has been shared and released to the public. The most salient quote of the whole piece (and I will leave it as the closing to this post) is this:

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?

Sunday Speculation: WikiLeaks

My question to you right off the bat:

Do you think there is a library that is going add the Wikileaks documents to its collection for future preservation?

Wikileaks_-logoMy gut reaction is that there is and there should be. The documents, while not released on their own accord, do present a historical snapshot of our particular time. I would guess that even right now there are academics looking at the cables and matching them up to the people, times, and events of our recent history. Despite the manner of which they have reached the public, they have now become part of the public domain (more or less) and should be considered an item to acquire and integrate into a collection. It offers a glimpse into the life of a diplomat and (ironically) the kinds of candid and secret communication that are required for agents of the state to inform decision makers as to the best course of action at the time. Whether right or wrong in the end, it provides crucial insight and the data for analysis for future generations of diplomats.

And why not? The Library of Congress has already acquired Twitter’s archive. Although, they are not in a position to collect the cables since they are currently blocking access to them.  While I would guess that over time the LoC would reverse such a decision (yes, it’s a speculative guess), but the same current underlying rationale may not be a bar for upper echelon political science schools. What better way to inform the politicians and diplomats of tomorrow than with the cables of today?

Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Would/should a library collect the Wikileaks cables? Why or why not?