Controversial website WikiLeaks has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Now unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, WikiLeaks has been behind some of the biggest—both in content and volume—exposés of the decade ranging from the release of secret documents from the Church of Scientology to U.S. embassy cables and more recently, the role of the Philippines in the smuggling of uranium. According to Reuters, the Norwegian parliamentarian who nominated WikiLeaks sees it as “one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency.”
However, this exercise of freedom of speech that WikiLeaks so vehemently champions would’ve never been possible without the medium that it employed—the world wide web. First role of technology: MEDIUM through which the information was distributed. How long do you think it would take for 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables to be released through newspapers and television? More importantly, how long would founder Julian Assange have to wait for his sources to send the information to him? When you really think about it, technology plays a very big role.
A role that Assange continues to use to his advantage. In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Assange talks of how he set up WikiLeaks so that if he or his staff were unable to go on with releasing the documents, someone would still be able to continue the work for them. He says that “encrypted backups of information are distributed into servers all over the world,” and “all we need to do is give them an encrypted key.” Second role of technology: FAIL-SAFE.
Some of the classified documents were allegedly given by Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in Iraq currently accused of copying them from a classified government network. Third role of technology: SOURCE. Private First Class Manning clearly didn’t get hardcopies of the documents out of a file cabinet then FedEx-ed it to Assange. The source and format of the information is important, because it sets the conditions of what conduit to use. While Assange maintains that they “do not go after” specific countries or people but rather give the public all the information there is so they may make sound, informed decisions to give or withdraw support to a particular cause, the jury is out on the effects of WikiLeaks actions—so far, it hasn’t brought peace.
Assange knows this, as he often changes cellphones and appearance to elude being kidnapped or arrested. For an organization that is shaking up the world in a huge way, WikiLeaks has no permanent office. Fourth role of technology: MOBILITY. The company is headquartered wherever Assange is and is made-up of anonymous employees and worldwide volunteers. Fifth role of technology: ANONYMITY.
Although staying anonymous in a world that’s constantly getting smaller is unlikely, by now we know that technology creates unbelievable miracles everyday and while we haven’t seen it yet, it’s not impossible that WikiLeaks will be given the Nobel Peace Prize and hopefully, be a step for technology to have a role in finally creating PEACE.