On Wikileaks: Gov 2.0, The Press and Free Society

There are people who do Gov 2.0 work who do not believe in calling “Government 2.0” a movement. In the non-movement sense, Gov 2.0 is practically defined as anything that someone wants to call “Gov 2.0” – often an emerging technology looking to capitalize on the movement.

There’s something to capitalize on because Government 2.0 is a movement, albeit a very loose one with many banners. The broad movement, though, boils down to a core commitment to democracy and a more collaborative and transparent government. There are a also a number of tools associated with the Gov 2.0 movement, from wikis to crowdsourcing platforms, social media and structured “open” data.

The ability of totalitarian societies to use these same toolkits – just as they have used rigged elections – to advance unjust and dishonest agendas is also very real. As an activists – and that is what I am – I was dismayed over the past several weeks to see the Transportation Security Administration use its well-developed social media channels to dismiss dissent with its new policies. Tools that build trust can also be used to betray it.

Gov 2.0 thrives on trust and openness. It is not a marketing program to burnish agency images, or an umbrella for vendors to sell new technologies.

Which brings me to Wikileaks. I come here because it the Wikileaks discussion has come to the Gov 2.0/”Open Gov” community.

Wikileaks is not open government, it is an independent press entity playing an important role in securing a free society, including some of the aims of open government activists.

From the birth of the U.S. to Watergate to the Pentagon Papers to Kaczynski’s Manifesto to the Iraq War and the outing of Valerie Plame, the press has played a central role – at times succeeding and at others failing – in ensuring the flow of information that society builds and thrives on. Wikileaks is an evolution of the role of the press, but one with extensive precedent.

I want you to think about some of the slogans and mottos of our newspapers:

Frederick Douglass’ North Star Newspaper (1838): “Right is of no sex, truth is of no color. God is the father of us all and all we are brethren.”

Zambia Daily Mail, Japan Times, Cambodia Daily: “All the News Without Fear or Favor.”

New Mexico State Tribune: “Give Light and the People Will Find Their Way”

The Aspen Daily News: “If You Don’t Want it Printed, Don’t Let It Happen”

Chattanooga Times Free Press: “To Give The News Impartially, Without Fear or Favor”

Colebrook News and Sentinel: “Independent But Not Neutral”

Daily Truth (New Orleans): “The Truth is Always Fair”

The Globe: “The World is Governed Too Much”

United States’ Telegraph: “Power Is Always Stealing From The Many To The Few”

I am interested in hearing and debating your thoughts on Wikileaks, and seeing the reading you’ve done to form your opinion. Here are a couple of links that I find important:

“No evidence that Wikileaks releases have hurt anyone”

“U.S. State Department tells employees not to read Wikileaks”