More on Wikileaks

BU Today has an interview about the Wikileaks.org shut-down with Computer Science Department chair Azer Bestavros. His point–that “once the information makes it to the Internet, it’s impossible to take it back”–has profound implications about the ability of anyone, governmental or private, to restrict speech. It’s a point that Larry Lessig makes in his discussion of the Pentagon Papers case in Code 2.0 (Chapter 12, for those following the program): “Publishing requires a publisher, and a publisher can be punished by the state. But if the essence or facts of publication are punished elsewhere first, then the need for constitutional protection disappears. Once the piece is published, there is no further legal justification for suppressing it.” Professor Bestavros’s conclusion will be familiar to anyone who has taken my Internet law course or read Code 2.0: “Places like this bank should use much better technologies to protect their content.” In other words make if more difficult to leak sensitive information; rely on architecture, not law.

4 thoughts on “More on Wikileaks”

  1. A big question it seems to me is: is free speech is different on the internet? The internet puts freedom of speech on a new level; because the ability to be anonymous hides the person from any blame… causing them to have a no holds bar when it comes to displaying confidential information. Disgruntled employees such as the one from Julius Baer Bank exemplify the seriousness of this problem. There is no holding back wehn there are no consequences. The bank is in turn suing for defamation, which may seem like a logical response, but where is it going to get them? The talk of money laundering etc is still circulating on the internet no matter how much they sue this anonymous employee for. How can they even sue someone without the person identifying himself? What responsibilities does Wikileak have for these kinds of situations if any? In any case, the more this is discussed the worse off people like Julius Baer Bank are. Trying to get rid of the already posted information is going to make people want to find it even more. All in all the atempt to restrict internet interaction seems like a lost cause, because if anyone wants to put something on the internet it will find its way there. Restricting people with access to the internet is nearly impossible with today’s technology.

  2. Actually, in this case, ignorance is not bliss. Contrary to what lay people may believe, the internet medium does not necessarily protect internet users with anonymity. Many technologies, such as GeoIDs and ISP records, can trace back to the IP addresses of specific individuals. Just as easily, filter systems can also take down and censor circulating information on the internet. The American government has been more hesitant to employ such technologies because of its sensitivity to free speech and public policy. However, stricter country’s like China prove that sophisticated technology has certainly made it possible to restrict internet access. Next time, I would think twice before posting material with the expectation of hiding behind the internet.

  3. The problem lies in the combination of the above two comments. People think that they can hide behind the internet and post anything without anyone figuring out their identity. However, as Howe Lin commented, IP addresses of individuals can be traced so we have people thinking that they can hide behind the internet when they can’t actually at all.

    I agree that the structure of the internet needs to be changed in order to ensure better privacy. We are in the internet age where basically everything happens over the web and sensitive information needs to have some way of being protected.

  4. Going along with the above comments… this website was interesting to look at to see how different countries are dealing with internet censorship and whether it is effective: http://wikileaks.be/wiki/Wikileaks_and_Internet_Censorship_-_a_comparative_study
    Overall – the answer seems to be no. “While there is much diversity in the style of Internet censorship among the world’s worst offenders, one common thread unites them: Internet censorship doesn’t work. Cut off one site, and a thousand more pop up.”
    Even if individuals can be traced by IP addresses, the problem seems wide spread and seemingly unstoppable.

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