Wikileaks, the web site that publishes leaked security documents and government information, has been banned in the United States. Paypal no longer accepts donations that filter to the site, and The State Department even warned Columbia University students against mentioning the site on Facebook, Twitter or blogs if they want a good chance at finding employment upon graduation. This ban is becoming even more widespread than the United States, as countries such as France and the United Arab Emirates are also discussing banning the site. A worldwide ban seems imminent. This should come as no surprise. The site has been regularly leaking diplomatic cables online since 2006.
For Wikileaks to have made waves and to create such an impact means that it’s approach was effective: it got the documents out and people paid attention. There are sure to be copycat sites down the road. They need to learn from Wikileaks and adapt if they do not want to suffer the same fate. Transparency is good when appropriate, but it is not always needed. Sometimes transparency can make an operating and governing body inefficient, while other times it can make it more successful. It cannot be regarded at as black and white; transparency is not always good and lack of transparency is not always bad. Strategically designed systems need to be created, in which transparency is present where we need it and absent where we don’t.
This could be a policy-driven initiative, but is likely to occur from the ground up as more sites like Wikileaks will surely pop up. Hopefully the reaction on the part of business and government will be a voluntary increase in transparency, reinforcing that they have nothing to hide. If a government or business knows its dirty secrets will make it out to the public, they are more likely to enable practices that won’t dirty the waters.
Check out this video of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, speaking at TED this year, making the case for the sites existence: