The rise of Wikileaks

Glyn Moody notes how Wikileaks has risen to prominence in 2008:

There is a long journalistic tradition of looking back at the end of the year over the major events of the preceding 12 months – one that I have no intention of following. But I would like to point out an important development in the world of openness that has occurred over that time-span: the rise and rise of Wikileaks.

The site was actually founded two years ago, but most people (including myself) didn’t really become aware of it until this year. Now Wikileaks is frequently to be found in the eye of the storm. Indeed, it seems consciously to be raising its sights ever higher: recently, it has published documents that are acutely embarrassing to the German and British governments.

This is all good stuff, but I do worry that at some point the goading will get too much, and the needling too successful, until repressive governments like the one currently running the UK will fight back hard – citing the tired old tropes about “terrorism” or “child pornography” or maybe just “leaves on the track” – by ordering ISPs to block Wikileaks and any mirrors that pop up.

Unfortunately, the previously despised idea of censorship is gaining respectability all around the so-called “civilised” world. As well as the recent blocking of Wikipedia in the UK – something that handily revealed the scale of censorship *already* occurring in the UK – we have had a completely dotty suggestion from UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham that some kind of “Film-style age ratings could be applied to websites to protect children from harmful and offensive material”.

I think that Wikileaks will continue to gain prominence in 2009. It’s possible that the UK or some other government may try to block Wikileaks — one could easily imagine Burnham attempting this — but if they do, the Streisand effect will ensure that it backfires on them and the offending material gains more prominence.

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