If I listed organizations exemplifying significant near-future trends, Wikileaks would certainly be towards the top. Wikileaks is a platform for the anonymous submission, verification, and publication of classified or otherwise secret documents. By operating online, with servers in multiple journalism-friendly jurisdictions, information given to Wikileaks becomes incredibly hard to suppress. The fact that Wikileaks tries (to whatever extent possible under their journalistic ethics) to publish full documents instead of processed stories allows multiple news organizations to do their own analysis of the raw data. Wikileaks suffered a funding crisis earlier this year, but after a donation drive, their document submission site and their published archives are back online.
Last April, Wikileaks was rocketed into the headlines when they released a video from July 2007 showing a helicopter gunship attack on suspected insurgents. Reuters journalists with the group were also killed in the attack, as were civilians who attempted to rescue the wounded. Two children in the rescuers’ vehicle were also seriously wounded. The video was leaked by Private Bradley Manning, who was arrested and charged this July.
This week, Wikileaks released tens of thousands of pages of classified documents on the Afghanistan war, launching US strategy in the war back into the news and the political spotlight (or so anti-war politicians hope).
That of course means that the US Government has intensified their efforts to capture and question Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and spokesperson. That didn’t stop him from showing up to speak at TED Global 2010 in Oxford, but he didn’t show at The Next HOPE Conference (where he was to be the keynote speaker) last week in NYC.
So, this is one to watch. It’s not clear to what extent Assange’s arrest would hinder Wikileaks. It is clear that the Anthony Russos of the world now have far better technology at their disposal than a Xerox machine, that this will be a force for governments and businesses to contend with, since the issues of secrecy, security, and democracy are deeply intertwined.