Tuesday, July 30, 2013

They Called Him a Traitor

In 2010, Julian Assange became "public enemy number one" in the United States for posting material on the Internet concerning airstrikes in Iraq, U.S. diplomatic communications and other sensitive matters.

A new movie produced by Stephen Spielberg's DreamWorks, The Fifth Estate, will focus on the controversial website and the disintegration of the relationship between founder Assange and former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

The film will debut at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival in October.

Among the classified information leaked on WikiLeaks were U.S. military videos of 2007 combat actions in Baghdad that had resulted in the deaths of two Reuters news staff -- a release that immediately sparked a storm of controversy.

The WikiLeaks controversy was not unprecented. The addition of digital cameras on cell phones, for example, as well as software apps that allow for photos or video to be uploaded to social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr or distributed via email has been a boon to street reporting.

During 2006 military operations in Lebanon, Israeli conscripts filled the Internet with personal photographs and videos -- some compromising the security of ongoing operations. Others were used by Hezbollah forces fighting them to generate anti-Israeli propaganda.

In his book Wiki at War: Conflict in a Socially Networked World, author James Carafano discusses WikiLeaks, social media and street-reporting tactics enabled by Web 2.0.

"While street journalism and blogging can be powerful weapons in the hands of bad people, both have been enlisted in the fight for freedom," says Carafano. "States such as Iran and China have pioneered efforts to keep the voices of freedom off-line. In some cases citizens have fought back."

Carafano, deputy director of the Heritage Foundation's international studies institute and director of its Center for Foreign Policy Studies, says the war for winning dominance over social networks and using that dominance to advantage is already underway.

For more information on Wiki at War, click here.