John Naughton, writing in The Guardian (UK), is one of the few observers to see the WikiLeaks case for what it is: “the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet. There have been skirmishes before, but this is the real thing.”
It’s difficult to make predictions about a story that is still unfolding, but the U.S. Government’s response to the WikiLeaks disclosures make two things quite clear: 1) that the world’s oldest democracy is not really committed to open debate, citizen accountability and due process; and 2) nation-states, in quiet collusion with key corporations, share an interest in curbing the open Internet in order to limit its disruptive impact on their power.
While the U.S. lectures China about the virtues of an open Internet, what happens when that very ideal is applied to the U.S. Government? The disclosures expose stunning deceit, mendacity, incompetence and corruption, and the U.S. Government goes into attack mode against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
Could we be reaching a turning point in history where the monopoly on societal communication enjoyed by governments and corporations is finally broken? Will the commoners be able to share information freely without risking jail, civil penalties or authoritarian retribution?
Sometimes it just takes a determined set of commoners to get the job done. Impatient with the lethargy of the federal government in making its own films and videos available online, info-activist Carl Malamud has launched the International Amateur Scanning League. Dozens of volunteers are digitizing government-produced DVDs on everything from agricultural advice to presidential addresses, and putting them on the Internet.
What if government were treated as an open platform available to everyone — much like the Web — rather than as a closed, semi-proprietary platform that serves those private interests with the money or insider access? That was the premise behind a major conference in Washington, D.C., on September 9-10 hosted by open-source champion and book publisher Tim O’Reilly and Richard O’Neill of the Highlands Group.
In earlier guerilla raids on inaccessible government information, public-interest crusader Carl Malamud has "scraped" public-domain documents from poorly designed and fee-based government websites and re-published them on his own servers. It’s proven to be a highly effective tactic. It embarrasses the government agencies by exposing how non-transparent and citizen-unfriendly they really are.