The media going beserk today over the arrest of Julian Assange. It’s exciting, firstly because it is bringing unprecedented public attention to the issues surrounding free speech and the internet. The second reason it’s exciting is because it reads like a cyberpunk novel; hackers, espionage and Anonymous revenge groups cyber-attacking the Swedish prosecutor’s office.
I support EFA’s position strongly supporting Assange as an Australian citizen with a right to due process, and to Wikileaks too; clearly whatever harm has been done by leaking the cables is not in proportion to the hysterical reaction in the USA. What has America become when the feeling of self-righteousness engendered by a little embarrassment deteriorates so quickly into talk of whacking somebody in their hotel room? There is controversy in the USA at the moment over the fact that the president has ordered the killing of U.S. citizens – suspected terrorists – without evan a trial. But all Assange has done is shed a little unwelcome light into the snarky thoughts of diplomats.
Likening this to terrorism further cheapens an already overused word. If Wikileaks is added to the U.S. list of proscribed terrorist organisations, how could anyone take the list seriously anymore? Nobody has been harmed, or even jeopardised. Wikileaks is not advocating acts of violence, merely publishing information given to it. Unfortunately, instead of Assange it would appear that the U.S. constitution’s First Amendment is the one that has been taken out the back and put up against the wall.
Here’s a conversation I had on air with ABC Radio’s Paul Austin last night about Wikileaks and online civil liberties. It’s amazing to see the level of interest this topic has generated in freedom of speech online. I’m off to talk to RRR radio about the same subject tonight.[audio:http://blogs.abc.net.au/files/colin-jacobs—efa-chairman.mp3|loop=no]