Martin Bright

A Bad Idea Meets Wikileaks

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I've become something of a fan of Bad Idea magazine, which promotes the work of young journalists. It's a sight more lively than most of the dreary material pumped out by the mainstream press as it stumbles lazily into oblivion. People younger than me will have to invent new ways of doing this thing if any of us are going to survive. One approach is the investigative site Wikileaks, which has been responsible for publishing a stream of documents no one else has dared touch.

So a Bad Idea article about Wikileaks was something I has to read, especially with the headline: Wikileaks - Protector Of Civil Liberties, Or Utterly Misguided?

The article reports the case of Theodor Reppe, the owner of the Wikileaks server, whose home was raided by German police. Bad Idea speculates whether the raid might be connected to the posting on Wikileaks of a blacklist of sites banned by the Australian authorities, including, bizarrely a dentist's office and a kennels.

Thus far a classic case of freedom of information versus censorship. But read on:

"Wikileaks says: “once a secret censorship system is established for pornographic content the same system can rapidly expand to cover other material, including political material” - they published a Thailand blacklist that featured sites criticising the Thai Royal family.

All quite compelling. But it’s interesting when you learn that the dentist’s office website, that allegedly proves Australia’s internet suppression extends beyond child pornography, had its server hacked by a porn website and was redirecting users to their site hence the ban from the government. If you take a look down the list of sites blocked to Australia's people, the URLs alone make for uncomfortable reading, and are compelling evidence for a blacklist. If a dentist’s office that couldn’t keep their security in order appears on it, then it’s a small price for protecting users from child pornography.

Even more morally dubious is Wikileaks actually posting clickable links to all blocked child porn sites on its website -  “If the customer is presented with a “STOP!” page, the site is still listed in the filter.” This is surely the most wrongheaded reaction imaginable - when you start to argue for free speech by disseminating child pornography, you know your argument has lost legitimacy."

The Bad Idea article raises some challenging issues for defenders of free speech and for the Wikileaks model.