The Web will eat itself over WikiLeaks

Sites are taking sides, hacks are being launched, a full-scale cyber war is under way -- all because of WikiLeaks

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Also: Journalism as we knew it is over. No more trade-offs between revealing some things while keeping other information private, of choosing between the necessary secrets governments must keep and the public's right to know -- it's now a free-for-all.

Some are joyously welcoming the new age of near-total transparency. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. As many have pointed out, a world in which everything is shared becomes a world where no one is willing to share anything of importance. And if WikiLeaks chooses the nuclear option and releases the code to unlock its "insurance file," real blood may spill.

What will happen as a result of the WikiLeaks Cablegate? A tighter, more ruthless clampdown on information, with more serious consequences for the leakers. Imagine for example, if Julian Assange were a Chinese citizen (or worked for Apple). We would not be hearing again from him for a long, long time -- possibly ever.

I'll bet you right now the next session of Congress will introduce legislation that criminalizes what WikiLeaks has just done -- not just for government secrets, but corporate as well. I bet we also see more calls for technological ways to de-anonymize the Net, making it easier to track down people who post this kind of information. Instead of more transparency, we'll all be living behind the Great Firewall.

It's a shame, because overall I think WikiLeaks has done more good than evil over the last four years. I also don't think the U.S. government should use illegal means or bully tactics to take down sites it doesn't like; that's a dangerous precedent.

But Assange surrended the moral high ground a long time ago when WikiLeaks failed to redact information that could put people in harm's way. At some point Assange stopped being a journalist and become an exhibitionist. While I agree in principle with the existence of a site like WikiLeaks, I can't agree with its practices. 

What will happen as a result of Cablegate? Post your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "The Web will eat itself over WikiLeaks," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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