Landmark day for the internet

The FCC will pass net neutrality regulations today.  The movement for “net neutrality” has been gaining steam in recent years, and the government wants to ensure that no entity will be able to censor what internet users can access:

When asked if that made it a crime for Assange, Biden said Assange could be proven to have violated the law when it turned out he encouraged or helped Bradley Manning, U.S. intelligence analysts believed it was behind the leaking of the document of the United States Embassy.

I’m sorry, my mistake: that’s Vice President Joe Biden describing how the US Government is going to drop the hammer on Julian Assange for the stuff he put up on the internet.  That’s apparently completely unrelated.



Shut up, I have freedom of speech

Don’t want to do business with WikiLeaks?  You might find your website getting hacked, like MasterCard or Paypal.  (And you might also get hacked if you represent women who are making accusations of rape, depending on whom they accused.)  Participants in what has been dubbed “Operation Payback” seem just organized enough to take some time off from complaining about not being able to get unlimited movies and music for free online to wreak a little bit of havoc.

The hackers’ concerns are echoed by DataCell, a company that helps WikiLeaks process payments.  DataCell is getting ready to sue Visa and MasterCard to force them to work with WikiLeaks, according to CEO Andreas Fink:

We strongly believe a world class company such as Visa should not get involved by politics and just simply do their business where they are good at. Transferring money. They have no problem transferring money for other businesses such as gambling sites, pornography services and the like so why a donation to a Website which is holding up for human rights should be morally any worse than that is outside of my understanding.

Visa is hurting Wikileaks and DataCell ehf in high figures. Putting all payments on hold for 7 days or more is one thing but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible. This does clearly create massive financial losses to Wikileaks which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension. This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this.

To summarize what Fink appears to be driving in his sputtered sentence fragments: Visa should not be involved in politics, therefore Fink will use a political entity (the judicial system) to force them to do business with a political organization (WikiLeaks).  Fink and Operation Payback are each quick to defend WikiLeaks’s right to publish unpopular speech, but intolerant of other groups’ choices to simply take their business elsewhere.

The whole mess is a dress rehearsal for the coming clash on American internet regulations like net neutrality. If a site (like WikiLeaks) depends on other companies (like ISPs, hosting companies, and donation platforms) for their survival, will those companies be forced by law to support WikiLeaks and their mission?

This Week’s Lesson: Don’t be a Jerk

After exposing catty gossip and American state secrets, WikiLeaks has been taken down – but not by government action.  Amazon refuses to host the site on its servers, and the quest for a new home is proving difficult.

Some proponents of internet regulation are pointing to this as an excellent reason to support net neutrality.   Like any media outlet, Wikileaks is entitled to freedom of the press; the problem here is that Amazon owns the press – and Amazon is exercising its freedom to tell Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to take a long walk off a short pier.  (Admittedly, with some coaxing from Joe Lieberman, but it’s still Amazon’s call.)

Amazon didn’t want to put up with an organization revealing state secrets for the sole reason of embarrassing America.  In short, Assange was a jerk and they no longer wanted to deal with him.

In a parallel move, the House of Representatives chastised tax cheat and self-proclaimed “honest guy” Charles Rangel.  Rangel tried to wrangle up support from his email list, sending a blast message calling on supporters to call their members of Congress and urge them to speak out against a censure vote.  (Side note: Wouldn’t most of the supporters on Rangel’s email list have Rangel as their Congressman?  This email blast couldn’t have been that effective.)

Rangel called it a “political” vote, claiming throughout the process that his 11 ethics violations did not merit the rebuke of his peers.  Yet, incredibly, rebuke him they did – overwhelmingly and in the first truly bipartisan vote Congress has seen in some time.

As Washington Times reporter Kerry Pickett found out, Rangel doesn’t view himself as someone who has to answer questions.  Maybe that’s why Rangel, like Julian Assange, ran out of friends so fast:

3 Lessons from Wikileaks and Infoterrorism

On America’s signature holiday, WikiLeaks continued its signature assault on America.  First came the hand-wringing, then came the finger pointing, and next will come the crackdown; but missing from all the coverage are the lessons of Julian Assange’s attack on the US Government.

Wikileaks deals in what could be called “infoterrorism.”  While militant terrorists seek to slow the gears of government through fear of violence, Assange (who looks like he could be cast as Niles Crane in a Christopher Nolan adaptation of “Frasier”) works through extreme exposure of unflattering details.  And through all the criticism, the fact remains that he isn’t making stuff up – the words in those cables are as authentic as they are embarrassing.

1.  WikiLeaks’s victories are designed for the PR field of battle.

There will be no tribunal of world powers who condemn the United States.  The UN isn’t going to boot the US out.  The US will not be stripped of its Heisman trophy.

Because the document dumps are so large, it’s clear that WikiLeaks is less concerned about getting specific content out than demonstrating their ability to find and release large amounts of information.  Sure, the disclosure will slow down diplomacy, but this is more about creating an image of America as large, unwieldy, and incompetent.

2.  Our state and defense infrastructures are too big to be trustworthy.

The big question, of course, is how WikiLeaks got their wikihands on the US Government’s secret stuff?

As a media organization, WikiLeaks cannot – and should not – be prosecuted for their part in the exposure of the documents.  But someone has been giving them the materials that have been causing such a firestorm.  Either too many people have their hands on sensitive information, or the ones who do are simply untrustworthy with sensitive information – in which case, the US Government has problems far beyond a PR black eye.

3.  State Department officials should observe discretion and STOP WRITING $#!& DOWN!

Most people with half a brain who work in an office environment assume their emails will be read (or could be read) by the IT staff and don’t talk crap about co-workers via email.  That includes people who work in office environments that aren’t subject to international spies stretching the limits of ingenuity and technology to intercept transmissions… such as the State Department.  So one would think the folks in the State Department would be even more sensitive about their written communications, right?  The most embarrassing revelations in the Wikileaks dump probably should never have existed to begin with.