Wikileaks And Its Influence On The Media
WikiLeaks is an online non-profit organization which was founded by Julian Assange in 2006. It is a website that collects data and basically steals secrets from the government. It is also given secrets by anonymous sources which they then publish online for the public to see and read. WikiLeaks believe that the only way to decrease corruption and increase stronger democracies is by releasing secrets to the public and being honest in the media. Assange believes that the public should know secrets even if the consequences are dangerous. Throughout the years since Wikileaks was founded there was a lot of turmoil and pressure placed on the founder Julian Assange when he had to choose between the libertarian theory of the press and the Social Responsibility theory of the Press. The main difference between social responsibility theory and the libertarians theory is that the libertarian theory believes that the media should be free to print whatever their owners want where as on the other hand the social responsibility theory adds a burden of responsibility on and makes the media company’s question their selves on what to publish to the public. Assange struggles in the documentary ‘We Steal Secrets’ between the two theory’s as he’s not sure wether it’s right or not to include names of the people who did commit crimes.
After Assange founded the company, WikiLeaks only started the journey that they’re still on today. Not long after being set up, Assange travelled to Berlin in 2007. When he was here he met up with an online friend, Daniel Domscheit Berg who is a German author. He became the second full time member of WikiLeaks. Not long after they met, they heard story’s about a banking tragedy that was happening in Iceland, which the media wasn’t covering. Together, Daniel and Julian revealed the truth about the Kaupping bank in Iceland and also made a name for Wikileaks. This is still their biggest story of all time. This story was such a big deal and so private and hidden, the media wasn’t even allowed cover it in Iceland. However, knowing about the websites the news reporter told the viewers to go onto Wikileaks for more information. As Birgitta Jónsdóttir said in the documentary “Iceland and Wikileaks really fit… the media failed us”. The media took the Social Responsibility theory of the press to action here. They couldn’t speak about the Kaupping bank situation even though the people of Iceland had a right to know. They couldn’t speak about it because it would endanger those who committed crimes within the company as well as give out sensitive information which could endanger the people. Even though the news reporter basically told everyone about it through Wikileaks, they couldn’t have the police on their back. Wikileaks however, took the libertarian approach and revealed everything they knew and had on Kaupping bank to the public. It was their right to know after all it was their money. Iceland wanted the people behind Wikileaks to serve one year in Iceland’s prison due to a breach of banking police law however, this never happened. Julian and Birgitta then set on a quest to make Iceland a freedom of speech country. So they’re would be no secrets anymore.
Not long after the Iceland tragedy, WikiLeaks received a story/ secret through the special anonymous website tool that Assange made. This secret however was shocking and devastating to many people. Assange had to be careful releasing this secret because it could harm many people but it would also reveal the truth to other people who were told lies to cover it up. Somebody from the US military released the information to Wikileaks and although Assange didn’t know it yet, the same soldier helps him to release over 75,000 American files to the public. The solider Bradley Manning released logs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This was the biggest military leak in history. The Iraqwar shootings were devastating enough without killing the innocent, but that’s what the American soldiers did. They fired on a dozen people ( including children ) from a helicopter, and then laughed at them when they seen they were dead. Apparently they believed these men and children to be armed, when in reality it was only a camera that a news reporter was holding. Assange took the libertarian theory of the press approach to this situation. He released every thing he got including a video where you can see and hear the soldiers talking about shooting the people as well as laughing at them and saying ‘it’s their fault for bring their kids to a battle’ as their excuse to firing at kids. Assange and co workers stayed in a small remote cabin in Reykjavik and editing and prepared the video so they could should show what the needed to the public. This shocked the nation. It got a lot of eyes on Wikileaks and made the government as well as corporations angry. Nobody was safe now that it was turned into a criminal investigation. The soldiers that were shooting from the helicopter were in trouble. In the video we hear them saying ‘oh yeah look at those dead bastards’. America was shocked. Wikileaks named the video ‘COLLATERAL MURDER’ to have the most impact. Manning ( the solider who released the information and video to Wikileaks ) said he wanted ‘the people to know, because without information we can’t make informed decision as a public’- this is the Libertarian approach.
The next major leak published by Wikileaks was on March 7th 2017 and is named ‘Vault 7’. Wikileaks released nearly 9,000 classified US government documents. The documents hold information about how the government and corporations have being using cyber tools like websites, cameras, phones, anything technical to spy on the American people. After denying it for many years the people of America now have proof and can demand the truth from the government. Between 2016 and 2017, the CIA lost control of most of its hacking equipment including viruses, malware,, weaponized 'zero day' exploits and Trojans. This meant a lot of codes and secret documents were in the open for any one to take, if they knew how to do it. Luckily, a former US agent knew about this and knew exactly how to get what he needed to shame the government. He hacked in and took nearly 9000 files from the government and gave them to Wikileaks anonymously. Although we don’t know who he is, he deserves all the credit for this as he potentially saved millions of victims from being exploited anymore from the government.
The last leak I’ll speak about in this essay was released on the 25th of July 2010. WikiLeaks released over 92,000 classified files to major news company’s like The Guardian and The New York Times. They received these files from Bradley Manning (Chelsea Manning) through a anonymous Wikileaks tool. The documents were mainly about the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009. The documents held very sensitive information ,detailing individual incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties. From watching the Wikileaks documentary it’s easy to say that the result was devastating. The size of the leak was described by Julian Assange was as big as what happened in the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s.. On 29 July 2010 WikiLeaks added a 1.4 GB 'insurance file' to the Afghan War Diary page, whose decryption details would be released if WikiLeaks or Assange were harmed. Under the Social Responsibility theory, about 15,000 of the 92,000 documents have still not been released on WikiLeaks. When I watched the documentary I seen Assange struggle immensely by himself to go through the documents and choose what is right and what is wrong to publish. Some information could harm people that were involved with the war logs and some of the documents were too dangerous in the wrong people’s hands. Speaking to a group in London in August 2010, Assange said that the group will definitely release the remaining documents once they have went through them again and picked out reliable sources as they’re still not sure what is true or false and can take out the names of certain people.
“Publishing improves transparency” When Wikileaks publish information it costs them a great deal but they do it because they know it is right for humanity. The libertarian view is that People shouldn’t be blindsided by the government and should be allowed to know what is going on with other countries even if it is dangerous for us, the government should always be transparent. On the other hand the Social Responsibility view is that when Wikileaks publish information certain parts should be held back. It shouldn’t be transparent but it should still make a better society for everyone in the world. The Social Responsibility theory intervenes with the publics freedom to make their own choice on what is right and what is wrong but it also holds back dangerous information to other country’s or enemies who would benefit from using our own information against us. “and this transparency creates a better society for all people”. Although transparency between us and the government could make for a better society it could also make for a worse one. They’re would be no privacy, the nation would see all the bad along with all the good but most of the time we aren’t able for how much badness the government hides from us. A better society would be great but so would a clean conscience, not everyone is ready for the truth and it would some people a lot more.
“Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption”. As a nation it is our job to check the government and fight for our right to freedom of speech. Nobody else can check the government only us as a nation. We need to scrutinize their decisions and vote and constantly check up on them to make sure they don’t fall to corruption. This part of the Wikileaks quote would favor the Social Responsibility theory of the press. It doesn’t demand that we know everything, only that we scrutinize and keep the government in order. Over the years however this has not happened and many governments all around the world are drowning in deception and corruption which is why Wikileaks was founded.
“And stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations.” The Social Responsibility theory of the press encourages us to demand answers but only answers that are safe for us to hear. It demands freedom for us rather than freedom from the government. In order to make stronger democracies and organizations just like the above quote says then we have to fight back and free Wikileaks from those who try to drown it in lies. After watching the We Steal Secrets Documentry we see that Wikileaks has become what it was founded to fight. It was founded to abolish lies and stop corruption, to give society a voice but now Wikileaks has lost its voice.
“A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals.” The aim for today’s society is to have no secrets but also have a safe environment for all. Having both is a tough luxury to get. It’s true that we need a good media. Not one like Iceland that are put on a gag order and told to keep quiet, we need one that’s not afraid to break the rules and tell the public what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. A proper media who questions the government, corporations and institutions. They only way to get where we want in the world is to be curious. We need to take back the world from those in power and that is what Julian Assange set up Wikileaks to do. He says “we are part of that media” and we are. We basically are the media. We all spread news every day. We just have to make sure it’s the right news.
Overall, throughout the years Wikileaks has a database of over 10 million documents releasing nearly all of them to the public. Using both the Social Responsibility theory and the Libertarian theory, Wikileaks has changed the media as we know it today.