Information Activism - The Wikileaks Outlook

Wikileaks and its founder, ex-hacker Julian Assange, have been yet again thrust into the limelite today. The site has been behind as string of revelations about the war in Afghanistan and Mr Assange describes himself as an 'Information Activist'. I have been wondering to myself what he means by this so I thought I would look into the topic further.

The path Mr Assange has chosen is a risky one as he found out today when he faced a rape charge. According to the Telegraph and other news outlets the Pentagon have been 'pleading' with him not release 15,000 more classified files on the Afghan war on grounds of national security and compromising military operations. Mr Assange has stayed resolute his principles saying that he still intends to release the files. His rape charge has now been overturned by Swedish authorities but some may ponder that this was just a convenient and feeble attempt to undermine his credibility. It may even have been an act of desperation by certain organisations who did not want the information to come out. At any rate I am not convinced that it would have made any difference even if he had been convicted of such a crime. The information that is about to come out is will most likely shake things up again whatever happens.

I recently watched a Ted talk where Mr Assange described why the world needs sites like Wikileaks. In his eyes the current way the media is dealling with situations like conflicts is inadequate and the internet gives a many new ways to share and disseminate information.

Wikileaks is a site that many have been following with great interest. It is certainly having an effect on the way journalism is done with most of the Wikileaks revelations making big news in the traditional media outlets.

Mr Assange argues it is necessary that such information be made accessible in the public sphere in order that people may make an informed decision on what is going on. In a world where we are saturated by new information it is information itself that is becoming the key commodity. Crucially, the right information at the right time and disseminated in the right way to the right influential audiences can have a dramatic effect on public opinion and in turn potentially effect political factors.

Mr Assange seems to be driven by a strong sense of morality and argues that information he is making available is not any surprise to those on the front line of the conflict. Furthermore, it is actually something that they live with day-to-day. He is also finding himself friends and empathisers to his cause. Outspoken American documentary film-maker, Michael Moore, has said he would assist with the legal case against Wikileaks source Army SPC Bradley Manning. Wikileaks servers are now to be run by Sweden's Pirate Party which is due to run in national elections next month.

It is clear to me that Wikileaks is having some sort of impact and information activism is something that is likely to further change the media landscape.