WikiLeaks! so what is it? Here’s what Wikipedia (still the community driven knowledge source on the web) says about it.
WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. Its website, launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organisation, claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch. WikiLeaks describes its founders as a mix of Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa.Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its director. The site was originally launched as a user-editable wiki, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model and no longer accepts either user comments or edits.
In April 2010, WikiLeaks published gunsight footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi civilians and journalists were killed by an Apache helicopter, as the Collateral Murder video. In July of the same year, WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available for public review. In October 2010, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations. This allowed every death in Iraq, and across the border in Iran, to be mapped. In November 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables.
See the highlighted text above. Wikileaks violates the fundamental truth of user-generated content. What it is now known for, is selective leaks of high- profile government documents. Some of the cables mentioned above are credited to have brought down successive regimes across the Mid- East, stirred up anti-corruption people’s movement in India, sent the military junta to retirement in Myanmar ( albeit within the ambit of allegedly rigged puppet government).
So, its NOT a wiki, its NOT people’s documentation, it doesn’t allow you to add, or comment, so how come people put so much faith by it, and are willing to take on oppressive regimes, and corrupt governments?
Herein, lies the fundamental truth of the role of media (traditional), role of news breaks in media, and the power of proliferation in social media. And the corollary, whoever thought that half a billion people on FaceBook, and/or Twitter is changing the way the world decides, clearly doesn’t understand the ascendancy of messages, their advocates, and the context.
It’s REALLY all about people!
And people like to be told fundamental truths, and its fairly easy to create a gospel and band together a bunch of followers. An old trick we used to play as school children is stand at a busy street corner and point up, and the whoever got the highest number of gawkers gathering around won. The trick, then, to influence the outcome was to take a few random people into confidence, so that it would appear that they also saw what you were seeing, and at random points of time, created the Gawkability!
This technique is still used in gathering flash mobs, whether at Cairo’s Tahrir Square or at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. And the people who do it most successfully , taking nothing away from the causes, and the social media advocates, is STILL traditional MAINLINE MEDIA!
Cut back to Friend Julian! Here’s what Wikipedia says of him– On 28 November 2010, WikiLeaks and its five international print media partners (Der Spiegel, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardianand El País) began publishing US diplomatic cables.
PRINT MEDIA PARTNERS? In a world of wiki, blogs, tweets, like and comments?
So what was all that hoopla about the dis-intermediation of traditional media. The Cables, the reactions, the political fallout and finally the uprising, as well as the TV-friendly battle in Libya is allowing traditional media- print and TV rake it in faster than anything before. Ad rates are up! And marketing brains, spend money where the crowd is and it is not on the wikileaks site.
Interestingly, wikileaks doesn’t even have an ad-friendly design. So Julian Assange, more than an internet technologist is perhaps a better practitioner of social media marketing. i.e. use the fundamentals of crowd behavior and build his model ( revenue, power, pelf) around it. If there is a revenue share between wikileaks and its international print media partners, is not known.
In fact, the response of governments most affected ( including, US) is understandably flat-footed. Think about it! If traditional media picks up stuff from wikis, they cant be sued. Bloggers, the world over, seem to have immunity, from traditional laws of libel, all most have to do is pull the offending stuff off. Newspapers and TV can always attribute their source, in this case, a blog, a tweet, a wiki and bypass laws applicable to them. And you can’t blame them from 24/7 coverage when the crowd comes out in protest.
Asserting the cables are fake, puts most governments under the onus of proving what’s REAL. So, you are guilty, till proven innocent. And let’s face facts, every society whether equitable or not, has things to say about their government.
Which brings back the moot point! Julian Assange is perhaps, the poster boy of traditional media, because of him and his ilk, readership, viewership and revenues have gone up dramatically instead of making print and TV irrelevant in the times of FaceBook and Twitter. And finally there’s nothing remotely social about Wikileaks, if anything its perhaps, traditional media’s best solution to thrive and flourish.
All pictures sourced from Google search- there I hope that covers the copyright laws J