There is cause for argument that the internet has had a larger effect on both the 20th and 21st century than any other invention. In fact, it could be argued that the internet is the ‘new wheel’ and the accelerated evolution we as a race have achieved since its inception (purely fiscally, technologically and socially speaking) is astronomical. However, like all supernovas, and there is likely to be no arguments that the internet is a supernova, they eventually explode.
2010 could go down as a red letter year in the history of mankind, specifically because of the dramatic events which took place in relation to freedom of speech, personal freedom, the relationship between government and citizen and the role which the internet, the last true vestige of ‘free speech’ as it were, began to be regulated. We have all enjoyed the many freedoms that come with an unregulated internet ( Myspace, AskJeeves, that ‘pants on the ground’ video, Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter….all of these things could not be the butt of my jokes without the internet) yet it seems that we may be entering a daunting period where the bloggers, hackers and surfers will be entering somewhat of a cold war with national governments over internet freedoms.
This is all in part because of one website called WikiLeaks, who published unfathomable amounts of data with the hope of making International governments accountable. These so called ‘cables’ would publish details of secret meetings between diplomats, inside information about US military strategies, and that someone in America thinks Kim Jong-Il needs to shift a few kilos. Nevertheless, it has been a long time since such a divisive issue has existed. The Face/Messenger, and now thanks to his unwarranted incarceration, the martyr/Che Guevara/Guy Fawkes of the Wikileaks website, Julian Assange, has faced widespread pressure from many countries (including his native Australian prime minister, despite being cleared by the AFP of breaking any actual laws) to shut his website down and answer for his crimes, despite not really committing any.
The US government plans to jail him for treason, however, he is not a US citizen. However, thanks to allegations of him having sex in Sweden without a condom (or ‘sex by surprise’ as the Swedish law states, or ‘Rape’ as Western countries with a bone to pick with him reported), it seems the US government may just get their man. Yet Assange promises he is just one of 100,000 dedicated WikiLeaks workers, with millions of unreleased cables just begging to be published were something to happen to him.
Many are calling for internet censorship, the complete removal of many sites on the internet, and complete governmental control of the internet, while the other side of the argument regard this as the death of free speech and a government possessing all the hallmarks of a dictatorship. It should never be forgotten however, that while WikiLeaks and Assange are on the most wanted list for their insidious crimes against democracy, every major news outlet, newspaper, television station and town crier reported the facts from these cables with glee, knowing that this story was not only huge, but profitable for their company.
This story is colossal, both in terms of the relative ambiguity of free speech concerning the internet, the laws concerning documents once they are in the public domain and the simple fact that on the surface it seems that Wikileaks may not have broken any real laws, and even if Assange is brought to trial in America, the website will continue to publish cables from the many domains it has covertly set up in the wake of the backlash.
But in the eyes of America, and many other countries who are now gunning for the website and Assange, it has never been truer to state that ignorance is bliss. One thing is for certain, WikiLeaks showed the public behind the curtain, and governments did not like that one bit.