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The Open Society (WikiLeaks)


One of my favourite podcasts comes from TWIT (this week in technology) and is called TWIG, this week in google.
Look ’em up. It’s available in video and audio and is a ~ 1hr 30min discussion by some top experts in Cloud environments, some from inside the establishments (like Google), some expert observers.
twit.tv/twigLast week 27/07/2010, they had a long discussion relating to WikiLeaks. The concept behind WikiLeaks is the revelation of [errrr] leaked documents, primarily that pertain to corporate or governmental misconduct.Now the idea of the discussion is how an online, stateless, library of such information changes the approach of conventional media outlets, mass media.
The WikiLeak on the Afghan war is an interesting point of how both the old and new media have to evolve. Almost 90,000 documents containing raw intelligence reports classified [2] Secret.The first principle is what to reveal. Can all the information be released? Do you edit/censor the output? How do you go about analysing the huge amount of data? How do you extract and “start the conversation” about important information hidden in the data?

The second principle is economic. WikiLeaks have a huge number of documents released on many, many topics and a huge number of them have never been analysed by the main stream media. Why, says WikiLeaks?
Turns out quite simple.
WikiLeaks is available to all but isn’t analysing the data. So anyone wishing to find a story will have to review, cross reference, analysis, process, confirm, sift and shift all the data to find the gems that are almost certainly hidden in the chaff. So, as anyone has access and you need many man hours to analyse the data – how do you know your going to be first.
You don’t.
So mass media were avoiding WikiLeaks as too much hard work and they might be beaten to publication.

The US Government contacted WikiLeaks and informed them that some of the data they had was indeed likely to put security at risk and asked them (yep asked them) to edit the content before release. WikiLeaks looked at some of the data mentioned and did indeed come to the conclusion the conclusion that lives would be at risk if all the raw data was released. So they removed over 15,000 documents from the release for further analysis. Now I didn’t know this but WikiLeaks appears to have enough man power to analyse that number of documents AND decide what is likely to cause significant harm to individuals security. This does slightly fly in the face of simply releasing data and allowing others to analyse the data.
What’s more the withheld 15,000 documents may not be released or if they are will potentially be censored.

Now, getting the mass media to take up the story. WikiLeaks have decided that to get the ball rolling they were going to have to contact some of the traditional media outlets and said (sic) “Hey! We got some war data, wanna have an exclusive preview?”
Having done this they got three media outlets to agree and they cooperated with each other to sift, analyse and report on the remaining 70,000 documents. They got an agreement from WikiLeaks that they would be able to publish to their respective outlets (TV, newspaper, radio – whatever) before WikiLeaks released the data.

Thus all the interested parties were kept happy.

  • WikiLeaks got the documents.
  • Government got some censorship.
  • Traditional Mass Media got an exclusive.
  • WikiLeaks got significant exposure.
  • We all (if we wanted it) got more educated about the Afghan war.

But how did WikiLeaks get the time and expertise to analyse and censor 15,000 documents?

I have several friends who are huge fans of WikiLeaks so I’m looking forward to a discussion.

All thoughts welcome and if I’ve got any of the facts wrong let me know so that I can correct them.

I think the approach above by all is very sensible and in all their interests. A sort of coalition in the release!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.


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