What Do Social Media and WikiLeaks Have In Common?

Wikileaks has gone off like a bull in a china shop around the world and has revealed government secrets from places as diverse as Australia and Afghanistan, the USA and Uzbekistan. The power of the social web to deliver information in real time has been displayed in a controversial way that has inflamed governments and opinions.What Do Wikileaks and Social Media have In Common

The internet is placing more power in the hands of the individual rather than governments and authorities.  For 1500 of the past 2000 years, knowledge was tightly held by a tiny elite who had access to higher learning. The invention of the printing press, and the explosion of literacy that followed the Reformation, saw that circle of knowledge expand rapidly.

The arrival of the internet, with its ability not just to reach a wider audience instantly, but to recruit millions of people to the task of collecting, correcting and disseminating knowledge (Wikipedia) has seen an irreversible shift and devolution in power.

Social media has put a printing press in the hands of everyone, not just Rupert Murdoch.

So what does Wikileaks and Social Media have in common?

1. Privacy no longer exists

Julian Assange is forcing us to rethink our assumptions about how much protection the ordinary person needs from the truth. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube amongst many other social media channels reveal with frank openness the private truth about peoples lives both good and bad. How much people reveal about themselves on Facebook is pushing the boundaries of what should be private and what should be public. Publishing any document in essence is now making it public. What happens in Vegas is now on Facebook for everyone to see.

2.Information can longer be controlled by the elite

Authorities both church, state  and corporate have continued to think that their actions and inactions can be kept in the tower of power. The Gulf oil spill has revealed what the companies thought would never be discovered. Social media has displayed that information is now controlled by everyone and true democracy is emerging with government becoming truly transparent as our forefathers imagined.

3. The power of information us now in the hands of the ordinary man

An ordinary man has a printing press in his hand and it is a mobile phone it is an iPad with access to Twitter or Facebook and it doesn’t need to be tethered, it is wireless. A photo, a video can reveal an image that cannot be refuted or denied. An article can be published on a blog and sent with a click.

4. It allows the information to spread globally

Silos of private information are no longer isolated to a city or a country and kept in a dusty filing cabinet,  they are  becoming more global as each day passes. The social web doesn’t recognize country borders or boundaries.

5. Information can spread in real time

Truth being revealed decades later is now the exception rather than the rule. If you want to get information spread and disseminated it can now be sent on Twitter to a global audience in real time.

The world has changed for ever and there is no turning back, the horse has bolted and we are approaching a true capitalist model as envisaged by Adam Smith in “Wealth Of Nations” where the individual has perfect knowledge to make decisions whether they be good or bad.

Image by patricenaej

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, I agree with all your points, but also object to nearly all of them at some level, preemptively I apologize for the long thoughts:

    1. Privacy no longer exists – there is privacy, but it is a different sort of privacy. The partition walls no longer are simple house/world or family/world dividers. You can more or less “privately” insult (or praise) a person in public, something that was very hard to do in the past for instance. Privacy now be comes much more segmented and context bound.

    2.Information can longer be controlled by the elite – Information may indeed not be kept in the same “towers” in the same way, but money and social clout indeed are able to control information. The control is much more subtle. Its the way that Wall Street brokerage houses may be able to exact market transactions nanoseconds faster than a person, or the way that military drones control the photographic information of territory movements, or the way that Facebook controls a vast breakdown of our tastes and proclivities. The information is not so much locked away, as harvested and put into imperceptible networks and arrays, with such sophistication the Public can no longer track, nor even muster to care about it.

    3. The power of information us now in the hands of the ordinary man – This is related to #2 for me. Indeed everyone has a printing press now, in fact several, but the great systems and networks that filter and heirarchize this vast expression operates in control. The Printing Press indeed produced de-centered powers, but it also created a power response to that. Picture-making and story-telling in everything from politics to economy to branding is even more important than ever, for behind them lay the great architectures of how dollars become invested. The more power becomes dispersed, the greater the possibility of restrictive reorganization.

    4. It allows the information to spread globally – Agree here, but the global reach is not merely a expansion of freedoms.

    5. Information can spread in real time – Related to #4. The breadth of reach, the shrinking of time thresholds almost means that social movements and effects can fall outside of the often positive social riverbanks that culture has built up. At first this feels like a freedom alone, a sudden spilling over of what is possible. This also means that reactionary tides, throw backs to fears or base affective feelings and prejudices, the kinds of things that spread best in thin fast and vast environments, can really thrive in this networking – “kitten videos” are not the only thing that can go viral. It is not just the “good” of information that spreads fast and wide, but forest fires of human reaction as well. Root-taking, an infrastructure of values and restraint behaviors capable of accommodating the speed and quickness of information, may be quite in need.

    I suppose that I question if transparency, speed and breadth alone operates solely as liberation. Again, sorry for the lengthy thoughts in comment. I find the subject you raise compelling and an important one.

  • http://twitter.com/johanhburger Johan Burger

    Jeff, a few good points. However, what I see what will happen is that powers that want to keep their information secret, will develop other means and ways of doing it. The principle will not change. They were caught napping, and will rectify this point.

    An analogy are the principles of warfare. Technology did not make them irrelevant – it just changed the way parties applied them. Secrecy will always be important – what will change is how to obtain information and how to protect it, as well as how to communicate about them. The same goes for surprise, and the principle of security.

    So I see Wikileaks bringing about a flurry of activity, in the midst of red faces throughout the world, where after it will be that much more difficult to get secretes and also to protect them. I see the red Queen effect becoming that much more relevant.

    Thanks for the stimulation. A great blog!

    • Anonymous

      Johan, Completely agree about power, and its ability to secure itself, and you comparison to warfare is apt. I am unsure about the ultimate extension of the analogy though, as if there are powers (states, companies, etc) and their enemies (the “people” of sort). What was interesting about the Wikileak example is how social media itself is what helped produce the leak (I believe it was the subterfuge of music files), the general assumption that people “within” the Network (protected) are necessarily within other networks (as digital, sharing entities).

      That seems to me to be what is different. The “social” interpenetration, or cross-penetration, of traditional state or corporate powers. There is no distinct “inside” and “outside”, or at least it is much more subtle and varied than it used to be.

      • http://twitter.com/johanhburger Johan Burger

        I hear you. States/governments will always have secrets to keep. Not everything is really supposed to be out there in the broad wide world. Politics and diplomacy is just like that. When you have someone making it their mission to get hold of these secrets, and then using social media to easily distribute them, the diplomats and politicians will revert to other means to protect the info. Let’s understand where Julian got the info in the first place. It was smuggled out of “secure” facilities. SMM had nothing to do with that.

  • Anonymous

    This is what our founding father’s dreamed of but could not conceive…the MASSES ruling the rulers with the freedom of the press, speech, etc….

  • http://twitter.com/JancoO7 JancoO

    You welcome to join to be continue in our WIKI project. http://tinyurl.com/69mksla