Paul Lachine

WikiLeaks’ Flawed Answer to a Flawed World

People like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, however flawed, are vitally necessary. In a world where governments, corporations, and other institutions have so much information about us, it is only right that we should have more information about them and about the activities of people acting on their behalf.

NEW YORK – Long ago, I wrote about the Internet pioneer Julf Helsingius, who ran a precursor to WikiLeaks called anon.penet.fi. As I said then: “Anonymity in itself should not be illegal. There are enough good reasons for people to be anonymous that it should be [allowed] – at least in some places on the Net (as in real life).”

But anon.penet.fi got little notice: there weren’t enough people on the Internet at the time to read what was posted, and Julf did not use the WikiLeaks “business model” of cooperation with “establishment media.” Eventually, he had to shut down the site in a tussle with the Church of Scientology, which used copyright law to keep its secrets.

There can be no clear line marking what needs to be kept secret (or never uttered) from what does not, but it should be drawn far from where most authorities put it – at least in a world where authorities are imperfect. If we are unwilling or unable to demand transparency from the institutions that have power over us, we should be grateful for those who put their lives (and their consciences) at risk to do so.

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