Staying neutral on WikiLeaks

Metaratings
17 Dec 2010
00:00

The WikiLeaks saga continues as its leader and alleged sex offender, Julian Assange, languishes behind bars in the UK awaiting extradition to Sweden to face allegations of having sex without a condom, yet no charges have yet been laid in Sweden. (I always thought the Swedes were a bit more liberal.)

Of course, the USA would like to charge him with much more serious crimes but they are still trying to find something they can hang on him. Meanwhile, the UK courts until today were holding him without bail in case he makes a run for it. Strange, considering he voluntarily gave himself up to police in the first place.

The whole story is playing out better than a Hollywood script. If studios thought it worthwhile reproducing the Facebook story then they must be lining up for this one. But putting aside all the histrionics for a moment, has anybody noticed what is happening to the “free” internet these since WikiLeaks reared its allegedly ugly head?

For a start, hosting companies are, quite suddenly, deciding what they think is suitable content running on their servers. Apparently, it’s not an issue to host uninhibited adult content of every imaginable (and unimaginable) type and political propaganda, including some gruesome online beheadings, the odd stoning of women, and a fair smattering of child pornography that had to be brought to their attention by Interpol.

That’s all well and good, but when WikiLeaks had the audacity to publish some not so secret and rather embarrassing comments made by US diplomatic staff, it was shunted off into internet oblivion.

Fortunately for WikiLeaks, its content was mirrored on thousands of other sites around the world, many that firmly believe in the concept of freedom of expression. Ah, but that’s the beauty of the internet, isn’t it?

The Insider’s last blog on this subject generated an abnormal amount of interest but readers strangely seemed reticent to comment publicly. Some people felt that the net neutrality argument had nothing to do with the social, politic and moral issues raised by the WikiLeaks revelations.

So, what should we make of the retaliatory attacks on MasterCard and Visa sites because they refused to process donations to WikiLeaks? Are the card companies also part of the internet judiciary panel that has already decided WikiLeaks’ guilt before it has even been charged and tried?

Is the mass denial of service attacks like those being perpetrated on the card sites doing the same? If regulators want free, unencumbered access to the internet then they may have to accept the bad with the good, surely?

Perhaps the US government may want to take a closer look at what the FCC is proposing because it may just shoot itself in the foot by supporting the legislation. Or will it simply add conditions ‘in the interest of national security’?

Wikipedia (not be confused with WikiLeaks) defines net neutrality as a principle proposed for user access networks participating in the internet that advocates no restrictions by internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

Whether we like it or not, anything to do with what anyone can, or cannot do, on or with the internet, will somehow be associated with net neutrality, with “neutrality” being the operative word.

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