Wikileaks has faced a dilemma whether it should be censored or not since the very first day of the website appearance. Scholars, authorities and simple people offer their visions of the situation, provide their arguments, and try to prove that their facts are the most relevant and convincing. Since the first day of official launch of the website in 2007, Wikileaks stays under thorough supervision.
Trying to understand a difference between Wikileaks and other sources of news the website is to be considered. It is important to understand the level of Wikileaks’ affect on society and how having Australian Communications and Media Authority organization people still have access to the files which may harm them.
According to the wikileaks.com it is a non-for-profit organization which provides “an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information” to its journalists and publishes “original source material alongside [its] news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth” (Wikileaks 2012).
Australian government as well as governments of other countries tries to understand how this source of information may affect people. There are two ways out, either to censorship Wikileaks, or to supports the idea of freedom of speech. Having conducted a research, this paper aims to present relevant and convincing facts supporting both for and against arguments of censoring Wikileaks concluding with argumentative opinion in favor of stopping to pursue Wikileaks in Australia and to allow it operate online without censorship.
Wikileaks Must Be Censored
Wikileaks is a source of information which stresses on its uniqueness and true data presentation. Since the time of the website creation many scholars tried to suspect it in failures and incorrect information. Others wanted to find harmful information presented by the website and in 2010 such people had an opportunity to do it. Remembering the third leakage of information in 2010, the largest and the most dangerous one, each person can check 251,287 United States embassy cables.
Figure 1: Visualization of the State Department cables (Scola 2010).
These documents contain many secret facts which create problems for any government making it unprotected. It shows that media is much more powerful that it may seem from the first sight. According to the research conducted by Scola (2010) state department cables affected the US security and the embassies of such places as Ankara, Baghdad, Tokyo, Amman, Paris, Kuwait, Madrid, Moscow, Colombo, Beijing, Tel Aviv, Khartoum, Jakarta, Delhi, Abuja, Hague, Kabul, Bangkok, Rome, Caro, Kinshasa, and Abu Dhabi (See Figure 2).
Mass media has shown that there is nothing which can be hidden from it, having shown its power and magnificence. However, looking at the possible outcome of the leaked information it becomes obvious that mass media may be harmful.
A reveal of such information as “China’s privately communicated stances on North Korea and Iran, American spats with Russia and Turkey, requests by Arab leaders for intensified U.S. pressure on Iran, and American diplomats’ opinions of world leaders, including Robert Mugabe and Moammar Gadhafi” (Charnoff 2010) can affect not only international security.
Figure 2: The Wikileaks cables (‘U.S. Warns of Likely Harm from Wikileaks Release’ 2010)
Having an opportunity to access these documents, no one knows what information the website can offer and how it can be presented in case top security data is revealed. At wars, the situations are different and the decisions made while war operations may shock people who live during the peace period. The death of several people may protect the whole operation at the war time, and when people see such acts, they make incorrect conclusions.
Mass media has an opportunity to present the information in the way it is interested at. Remembering that case, it is important to state that it is one of the main reasons why Wikileaks must be censored. People are to be protected and Wikileaks offers them information which may carry danger (Beckett, & Ball 2012). Much data must be secured in favor of world peace and order. The disclosure of this information may bring many conflicts, chaos, and may lead even to weapon collisions.
In 2010, Wikileaks disclosed many documents about war in Afghanistan which showed that governments of several counties which were involved in the war covered many acts of deaths of innocent citizens. This information may be allowed for reading. However, at the same time, the website revealed the names of community informants. This data is private and it may affect the country’s security greatly (Dumas 2012).
Australian mass media sources must understand it. The information presented on Wikileaks is protected by government due to many reasons and the country’s security is one of them. At the same time, Iraq and Afghanistan, the countries which are the focus of two first leaks of information on Wikileaks, may also be negatively affected because of this data disclosure (Leigh, & Harding 2011).
Disclosure of the information is shown as the freedom of speech. But many civil rights organizations also turned back from Wikileaks after a disclosure of the information about Afghanistan and Iraq wars having convicted it in illegal actions and in “revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan and making them vulnerable for further violence” (Dumas 2012).
Trying to speak about numbers, it is better to look at figure 4. It shows the correlation between the dead coalition forces, Iraqi forces, insurgents and civilians. Presenting this information, mass media shows its power, it wants to rule human vision of the situation. Showing it as a freedom of speech, Wikileaks wants to create public opinion.
Figure 3: Wikileaks documents deaths in the Iraq war (‘Wikileaks and the Iraq war’ 2010)
There are many Australians who are against this unnecessary, as they call it, war. Having seen these numbers, those people are assured in their belief. Therefore, their consciousness is assured in the negative effect of the war refusing some positive aspects which may exist. Supporting the idea of Wikileaks censorship, governments of different countries turn to any possible support.
Even though that Wikileaks is an online site which is supported by many other Internet companies, Amazon expressed its position in favor of censoring Wikileaks due to the website violation of its rules. Being deleted from a list of its websites, Wikileaks was convicted in presenting harmful information which was a reason for Amazon to insist on Wikileaks censoring.
One of the representatives of Amazon leadership reported that “it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that Wikileaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy” (Sifry 2011, p. 176). The information Wikileaks presents affect human opinion about the events, but no one can assure that the data presented by the website is credible.
One more reason to censor Wikileaks is to convince it in distribution of harmful information. Official sources managed to prove that Wikileaks could not be allowed to a wide range of readers due to its failure to verify the information (Greenberg 2012). As for Australia, the information revealed by this website resulted in citizens’ disapproval of the war which had been lasting for many years.
Just one release of information and Wikileaks managed to affect the opinions of the whole country (Pilger 2010). But whether people were unaware of the war? No, they were not. Were people aware of many deaths? Yes, they were. The release of the information by mass media made people change their opinion and act its favor. It is the occupation of human mind, therefore, the website with such affect is to be rejected, or at least censored.
Wikileaks Must Operate as a Free Source of Information
According to the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (Amendment I n.d).
This is the main argument in refusing from Wikileaks censoring and the main weapon against those who insist on it. Freedom of information and speech is a constitutional right of people, and they may use it. Wikileaks continues to be the focus of debate. Different countries look critically at this website. US government is a leader in imposing censorship on this website in the whole world.
Considering the situation in China, it should be stated that 13% of all the data presented online is censored. Chinese people know it, but they can do nothing. Chinese government reports that such measures are imposed with a purpose “to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power” (‘Monitoring the monitors’ 2012). As for Australia, there is the Australian Communications and Media Authority department which censors some specific Internet sites.
Hence, isn’t it an attempt to control people? Yes, it is. The USA wants to provide the same, but people are free in their actions, therefore, they have a right to act as they want if it is not forbidden by the law. People can express their personal vision in press. The information Wikileaks presents is true, therefore, the website cannot be convicted in calumniation.
So, what are the reasons for Wikileaks censorship? They are absent. After the release of those United States embassy cables in 2010, government began to convince Wikileaks in created tension between US and some countries (MacAskill, & Halliday 2010).
However, looking at the situation objectively, is Wikileaks really guilty? Was Wikileaks unfair in some international relationships? Was it Wikileaks which acted irresponsibly in relation to some countries? Was it Wikileaks which tried to hide some important information from other countries-partners? Is there something to blame Wikileaks for? A responsible reader is going to answer ‘no’ to each of these questions.
Therefore, another aspect is to be considered, why should Wikileaks stop its activities? Living in the democratic country, mass media may have an opportunity to express personal opinion. Information is to be presented in public. People are to know the facts. Why should government prevent people from being aware of the facts they have a right to know? Speaking about various countries and their attitude to freedom of speech, China, North Korea and the Middle East are the most severe countries in relation to censorship.
All the data which is released in these countries is checked and sorted. Even not all Google search items are available for people in these countries. UK expressed its dissatisfaction with such state of affairs having referred to the countries where Wikileaks is censored (Biagi 2011). It is illegal in relation to journalists who have a right to deliver credible information and to simple people who have the right to read that information.
According to W.W (2010b), people fail to see the wood for the trees. Seeking for separate facts, trying to consider hidden information on the website, both government and people fail to see contribution Wikileaks makes to Australia and a whole world. Protected information does not make an opportunity for many scholars to draw appropriate conclusions.
As a result, it may lead to failure in historic cause and effect relations. For example, the information presented about the war in Iraq showed the real danger Saddam Hussein represented to whole society (W.W 2010a). Only the documents given by Wikileaks revealed the information about a real possession of the destroying weapon he had.
Figure 4: Opinion of Wikileaks (Press Summary 2010).
According to the research conducted by Barometer of the ELCANO Royal Institute in Madrid in 2010, the vast majority of respondents see positive affect from the release of the diplomatic cables Wikileaks offers. It says that people understand the necessity of free information distribution. According to the same research, Julian Assange, a founder of Wikileaks, is the third popular person in the world after Angela Merkel and Barack Obama.
Therefore, the information is read on the website and the data is correctly presented as people think. Being a nonprofit organization, Wikileaks operates on the basis of donations, however, Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, the most spread online paying facilities, blocked Wikileaks accounts. Thanks to bitcoin, the organization manages to overcome the US demand for block and continues receiving donations.
Having referred to the UK, the only country which supports Wikileaks as a free organization which has an opportunity to express its vision of the world, Wikileaks strives for its rights on free access to banking accounting. Looking at this situation, it is important to state that such behavior of US government is unacceptable. Providing such actions, USA proves that it has much to hide from society.
Such conclusions make Wikileaks the only website which offers really true information. This is one more reason why it has to be protected and censorship is not what the website needs. People should have an opportunity to know the truth and Wikileaks offers such an option (Matonis 2012). Australia is a country remote from others, therefore, the main source of information is the Internet and other types of mass media.
Mass media affects people greatly as they have to trust everything they are offered. Most of information on TV and online is aimed at creating public opinion while Wikileaks offers the documents and people have the right to draw personal conclusions.
Therefore, it may be concluded that arguments presented in this research show that Wikileaks cannot be censored due to the laws and ethical issues. Wikileaks offers true information. The conviction of the website in creating dangerous situation for a whole world is absurd. Wikileaks just offers the information which is to be available for people.
People have the right to know all the data concerning national and international politics living in free democratic society. The information Wikileaks reveals is important for society for understanding the actions of the government and conclusions it draws. Still, it is the government which makes decisions and acts. It is the government which should be responsible for danger information creates.
The release of some of the data threatens US in tension from the side of some countries and this is only the fault of the government. Government should act in favor of its citizens, but it should be fair before itself and before the whole world. The failure to be fair leads to such situations when the leakage of some data may cause problems with other counties.
Of course, no one knows which data may be released tomorrow, but to be calm government should act in accordance with the laws. Therefore, it should not fear that society gets to know the truth. Information is not just a source of knowledge it is the way to control the world. World society and specifically authorities understand that Wikileaks possesses much information and therefore, it can have much control.
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