How WikiLeaks is Changing the Online Publishing Industry

WikiLeaks creates an uproar in the online publishing world by questioning “free speech”

In case you’ve been under a rock, a website (and plethora of mirror sites) called WikiLeaks is under attack for leaking private government and company documents. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange has been bullied by the government into shutting the site down, and even coerced hosting provider after hosting provider to flip the kill switch.

This has caused an uproar in the hacker community. Hackers have been attacking sites that have refused service to WikiLeaks. According to NYDailyNews.com, “The hackers, who call themselves “Anonymous,” went on Twitter to declare war on the credit card companies for blocking payments to WikiLeaks.” This included both Mastercard and Visa.

Unrelated to any WikiLeaks business, more hackers have come in swarms, even hacking the Gawker network and publicly posting 250,000 emails and passwords. Which in turn, caused other websites to require everyone to change their passwords.

The point here is that there’s a hacker revolution and while I don’t completely support the public posting of documents that could potentially put the U.S. in another terrorist situation, there’s still an issue of “free speech”, and this is where our online publishing world is coming into question.

For example, what is considered a journalist?

The U.S. has never formally authorized or disqualified journalists in the past. Freedom of speech, right? Journalism has always been about exposing the truth, getting the facts, and writing about them.

However, the U.S. is now saying that Julian Assange is not a journalist because he has a “political agenda”. According to EarthTimes.org, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said, “He’s not a journalist. He’s not a whistleblower. He is a political actor. He has a political agenda.”

Doesn’t everyone? So what does this mean for every other news reporter? Isn’t Fox news politically motivated? How about those ads that go up during elections that dig up dark secrets and “report” them in the form of a TV commercial? Where is the new rule book?

Which brings us to the next issue.

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Is the New York Times no longer a credible website?

According to Slate.com, The United States Air Force has now blocked 25 websites that host any kind of WikiLeaks documents, which includes The New York Times. Also according to the article, “Other blocked outlets include Britain’s Guardian, Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde, and Germany’s Der Spiegel.”

If a prestigious website like The New York Times is tossed aside so easily just for reporting on legitimate news-worthy documents, what hope does that leave other newspapers who want to report the real news and do that thing… you know… write fresh, interesting and accurate content? After all, what’s more accurate than secret government documents?

Everyone supports their own

Assange has been supported by liberal celebrities like Michael Moore, who offered up money for his bail and will soon be holed up on house arrest in a London mansion. This mansion happens to be owned by one of his supporters, Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer founder of the Frontline Club, “the London hub for a diverse group of people united by their passion for the best quality journalism.” The web is being ravaged by angry hackers that are starting their own revolution against anyone who tries to shut down WikiLeaks. Overall, it’s a war between the people who write the news and the people who actually create the news.

So the online publishing world may be changing. Who’s considered a journalist? What are we allowed to report on? Do we have to write letter to the President before we post a blog?

What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you think that the rules of journalism are ready to be defined, or do you think that this is a special case that won’t affect us in the future?

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