Now taking your WikiLeaks questions

December 3rd, 2010

Next week Larry Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain will moderate a discussion with some of the brightest minds at the Berkman Center to talk about the latest WikiLeaks release.

Our phone has been ringing off the hook with questions about WikiLeaks. Questions about the top secret diplomatic cables; the Amazon takedown; media complicity; the surrounding issues of transparency; and about Julian Assange, the man behind the project.

And there has been no shortage of opinions from fine folks within and outside the Berkman community.

We want to make this conversation as interesting and full of answers as possible.

PLEASE share any questions or comments you’re interested in hearing us respond to in the comments below, or via tweet to @radioberkman.

We’ll release this as a podcast shortly after.


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Entry Filed under: radioberkman,Zittrain and Lessig

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. x7o  |  December 3rd, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks for this, both of you.

    I’m interested in some deep engagement with Assange’s theory on conspiratorial networks, some commentary on which is visible here:

    As an analytic for seeing how the organizational features of official networks might by nature give rise to corruption, I think it is a fascinating topic for Prof. Lessig to weigh in on.

  • 2. Samantha  |  December 3rd, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    How do you feel about the pressure to shut WikiLeaks down? Based upon the supposed upcoming targets (major American banks), what do you think we were heading toward? It’s obvious we’ve only scratched the surface and the urgency in the pressure by the government to shut down this proliferation of truth unethically utilizing its power shows the potential gravity of what was to come.

  • 3. Henry Story  |  December 3rd, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I don’t so much have a question as a thought that Wikileaks, up till now, should perhaps be thought of as a piece of Action Theater, that is an action that makes us question what we are doing in so many different domains. We need to ask questions that range very widely from issues of security, to privacy and transparency, to voyeurism and pornography. Every one of these, and very likely more, issues is brought to the fore by Wikileaks. Actors that until Wikileaks were quite happy to say “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about” sing a very different tune when the diplomatic conversations of the world are on line – and quite rightly I would argue. But without the wiki action they would have been happy to repeat those phrases, reinforce nonsensical airport controls, invade our privacy at every occasion, and more…. I argue this in more detail here – perhaps those issues can be brought up in this talk.

  • 4. Fernando Mello  |  December 4th, 2010 at 5:24 pm


    I’m a 3rd year Law student from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and first of all I’d like to congratulate the Berkman Center for this relevant initiative in order to amplify the debate on Wikileaks – which came in handy for me, especially considering I had just started to think about doing a research project about Wikileaks and International Law.

    Firstly, I’d like to clarify that I will only appreciate one specific aspect of Wikileaks: the full disclosure of diplomatic information, such as the 2.855 documents leaked directly from Brazilian embassies and the hundreds of thousands about the USA. Also, although this is not exactly a question, there are a few points I think are worth to be discussed.

    I believe it would be interesting to ponder about the circumstances that initially lead the presently leaked data to be regarded as confidential. International state agents have a positive legitimacy to act on behalf of the people of the nation they represent – a legitimacy that is intrinsic to their role. This legal right comes with some legal duties, so that any abuse or misbehaviors shall (and will) imply the corresponding consequences.

    Thus, the legitimate power given to them includes the possibility of discretionarily define whether certain information will be public or not. Which leave us with two possible courses of action: in the first, information is chosen to be kept safe due to specific reasons; in the other, information is disclosed so that everyone can, well, do what with it? Since some were not satisfied with the answers given on the first case, leaks began to occur.

    The only reason I can see for this kind of leak is the disclosure as a means in itself, when it should be employed in order to achieve a concrete purpose based on moral grounds – which, nevertheless, I still don’t see in this situation. We shall not misinterpret the right to publicity for informational voyeurism.

    Maybe leaking this sort of data will inflict more damage (and drama…) than if it was kept reserved. I don’t feel like diplomats and other international state agents are on any imminent treason warning with each other, in a way that they hide their thoughts or withhold information only in order to pursue their “evil plans”. The option to keep certain data from public disclosure is (as it should be) simply a political choice to keep impressions under-the-table when desirable. After all, it’s just politics.

    Wikileaks should be used to (as it sometimes is) disclose abuses, not mere diplomat impressions or information about a country’s external politics. Otherwise, we’ll be turning Assange’s legacy into the Gen Y’s gossip magazines.

  • 5. Stanton  |  December 6th, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Fight the power! U.S. – you’re no more qualified to criticize China Communist Party (CCP)’s Internet censorship since you are doing the same thing.; paypal… all flunkies of all those politicians. Disgusting!!!

    Where’s the famous iconic American-style “Freedom of speech.”?!
    Now I know it’s American-style censorship and Internet-block, just exactly the same as China Communist Party’s The Great Firewall does in China.

    I’m from China where is strictly controlled by dictatorial and autocratic China Communist Party (CCP).
    So, there is no freedom of speech and press freedom at all in China.
    China’s known as CCP’s The Great Firewall, which blocks, censors Internet content within China.
    The CCP government can shut down any website at will as long as CCP thinks it jeopardizes so-called “state security or state interests”.
    The CCP government can invade and deprive people’s rights to know the truth.
    I’ve been thinking the situation of freedom of speech much worse in China than in the U.S.
    I’ve always respected the U.S. for it’s famous “freedom of speech and press freedom.”
    But now, I don’t respect the U.S. anymore,and I feel very very disappointed.

    The U.S government now is doing the same thing to WikiLeaks as CCP does to Chinese people.
    The U.S government’s using a lot of political powers to intervene and destroy WikiLeaks’ operation.
    Before WikiLeaks Event, I thought Chinese people are deeply, badly brainwashed by CCP’s government-controlled media, but American people are not.
    Now I realized that American people are ALSO deeply and badly brainwashed by their government in another way, but the result is same.
    I don’t believe American style so-called democracy anymore. It’s so fake and hypocritical.

    Politicians – Full of lies. All lies!!!

    So called “State security and state interests” are just the excuses of scandals.

    WikiLeaks Event torn down American mask of fake Freedom of Speech.
    It’s the same thing which is happening under China CCP’s The Great Firewall.
    America, please don’t blame China’s Internet censorship anymore.
    You are not so good either.

    U.S. politicians – Do you call scandals “State security or State interests”?
    Come on, give me a break.
    The same way China CCP does. You’re learning from China CCP.

    America! You’re now standing with China’s CCP.
    Finally, don’t claim yourself your value is Freedom of Speech.
    Congrats! America The Great Firewall was born.
    It’s fake! So fake!

  • 6. Dan Haggard  |  December 6th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I just simply would like a clear discussion on the legality of wikileaks actions. Lots of politicians are saying that what they are doing is not legal. Is this true?

  • 7. Desiato  |  December 6th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I am refining my question/proposal from my previously posted question in response to Hal Roberts’ post on Amazon’s take-down of wikipedia. [1]

    Two parts:

    1. Instead of expecting (as Hal Roberts does) that private hosting companies extend U.S. 1st Amendment-style rights to their customers, doesn’t it make more sense to promote tools that are hard to suppress in the first place, modeled on the resilience of the internet itself?

    2. If agreed on #1, what tools would these be? BitTorrent already makes it hard to suppress distribution of a “publication” once it has reached a minimum level of re-broadcast (“seeding”). That leaves a weak link in the need to publish the existence of the torrent–currently a website can be de-hosted, and a Twitter account can be deleted or Twitter itself can be targeted with a denial-of-service attack.

    The logical next step would be to develop a p2p equivalent of Twitter which removes the single point of control where the service owner could delete individual accounts.

  • 8. Terrell Russell  |  December 6th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Who gains the most (country, corporation, person) from the turn of events that is Wikileaks?

    Now that we’re in a post-Wikileaks world (and we’ll have something like Wikileaks from here forward, now that it has been invented), who should be backing its further development/existence, if anyone?

  • 9. powertogeeks  |  December 6th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    German sociologist Max Weber distinguished between political action according to input-based ethics of conviction and outcome-based ethics of political responsibility. Much in line with Weber’s conclusions, many media commentary incl., for instance, The Economist leader, seem to suggest that Julian Assange’s intention may be to do the right thing, but that cablegate may achieve the opposite e.g. make diplomacy – that tries to avoid wars – a tougher job, or endangering the personal safety of agents of change in authoritarian countries. When judging cablegate, should we observers pause and assess the outcomes or rather embrace the (presumably) positive intention?

  • 10. Owen Densmore  |  December 6th, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I’d like an opinion on the risks of helping wikileaks out by becoming a mirror site. Here are the instructions for doing so:

    Basically they would like to have access to a couple of GB of your hosting service storage which they manage via ssh keys and a subaccount. This is fairly vanilla for typical hosting services.

    By massively mirroring their site, they much improve their robustness to attack by their opponents.

    I’d like a reasonable assessment of risk I’d take on by offering to help.

  • 11. Alamgir Kahn  |  December 7th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Why don’t you think #wikileaks is a trending topic on Twitter?

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