Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can't Stop the Signal

There's a Web site called Wikileaks, a site for corporate whistleblowers, anonymous sources and the various informants that make investigative journalism possible. What Wikileaks does is post leaked documents anonymously, allowing these people to let the information out with some degree of safety.
Recently a Swiss bank, Julius Baer, which is based in the Cayman Islands, filed a suit trying to get the site shut down because somebody leaked documents that allegedly make the bank complicit in money laundering and other dodgy endeavors.
The bank went to a California judge and, after what appears to be some pretty shady manuevering, got the domain name shut down. Now, if you go to you get nothing.
But, since the actual servers, and IP address ( are not in the California judges jurisdiction, you can get to the site by typing it in directly, or going through several overseas mirror sites.
To make it even more fun, and amusing, there was this article on the New York Times Web site which describes the situation and, in the seventh paragraph provides not one but four hyperlinks for alternate routes to the site.
Journalists tend to be a little bit hostile to people who try to burn out their sources. And that First Amendment thing? They take that seriously. There's a lot of talk that there may be some unconstitutional action going on here.
Another interesting point: this whole thing about the alleged dirty dealing of Julius Baer? Not too many people might have known or cared if not for this story (which I am, I hope, helping to spread a little bit more through viral journalism).
Now, it's making headlines all over.

I only hope, and this is speaking not only as a journalist, but as an American citizen and great believer in free speech and transparency, that this kind of thing is going to keep happening, that the internet is going to continue to be harder to control, and the power will lie spread out among the millions of users, rather than falling under government or corporate control.
It's not perfect, and there are dangers, but I think the free flow of information has benefits that far outweight the risks.
Here's an attempt to censor something on the internet, which, in the words of one journalist, the Web saw as a kind of a "wound" and proceeded to heal around.

To steal a tag line from a recent sci-fi movie, "Can't stop the signal."


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