Wednesday, 15 December 2010

"Wikileaks and the Information Wars"

Good evening readers, there is a fantastic podcast which was released on the 08/12/10 available here. This has excellent commentary on the ongoing Wikileaks situation by eminent legal scholars Jonathan Zittrain and Lawrence Lessig. It is also available on iTunes if you subscribe to the Radio Berkman Audio Fishbowl podcasts. They are free and a fantastic resource for listening to current debate released by the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Zittrain has also published on this issue on his blog here.


Friday, 10 December 2010


May I firstly extend my apologies to any followers of this blog as to the length of time it has been since my last post. I have been rather caught up in university work but had written down many proposals for blog ideas but never actually posted them. The result will be a flurry of posts over the next week or so. 

My first topic will be the Wikileaks situation which has highlighted some very interesting issues in the sphere of internet governance.

One of the key elements engaging my interest has been the involvement of hacktivist group Anonymous. Last night I read a news report that they had deployed a DDoS attack on the Mastercard website through a voluntary 'botnet' using the 'Low Orbit Ion Cannon'. This was because Mastercard, among others, had withdrawn their donation services to Wikileaks. This is the latest in a string of DDoS attacks launched by Anonymous including targeting Paypal, Visa and PostFinance (a Swiss bank). Next on the list is Amazon who removed Wikileaks from their cloud servers on the basis of violation of the terms of use policy. This seems pretty hypocritical given they are now selling a Kindle version of the leaked cables! The customer reviews here give some humorous insights including a query as to the allowed means of payment - could they use Paypal or Mastercard/Visa credit card to pay for a copy...?

I believe that control and regulation is needed on the Internet to guarantee continued 'freedom' but I do not like the notion of private entities controlling liberal democratic values like freedom of speech. Obviously I am not condoning the use of the illegal DDoS attacks as a method of punishing companies who may well have had legitimate reasons under terms of use agreements to terminate their services... But I think the whole unfolding situation highlights a deeper point about how the Internet can be used to route around attempts to stop the spread of information. It is allowing users to guarantee freedom of speech through its very architecture. Irrespective of the attempts of various parties to stop it through denial of hosting or donation services the underlying network and users have created other channels by setting up mirror sites or torrents to ensure the proliferation of the leaked cable information.
Bearing in mind the Cold War credentials of the Internet as a communications network designed to withstand nuclear war it is comforting to see that the original beast is still very much alive. Growing challenges to the network from the increased control of the ISP's or the prevalence of layered identification technologies could easily have diluted the key features from the ARPANET to the extent it no longer circumvents attempts to stifle the information flow. It appears to be showing the true potential of the network for guaranteeing fundamental free speech or expression rights. I find it very interesting for future regulation models that in a world of ever more controlled and tethered platforms that the underlying infrastructure can still reroute around 'terms of use' policies or political pressures to such an extent.

EDIT  - this story moves so fast things get out of date very quickly!

-Anonymous decided to abandon the attack on Amazon last night favouring to target Paypal again.
-Also the Internet Society has issued an interesting newsletter here worth a read.
- Anonymous have released a statement which gives some context to their intentions here

Thanks, Moose