The Future of Wikileaks: Evgeney Morozov at the RSA

I’m liveblogging The Future of Wikileaks at the RSA from 1pm London time. ┬áKeep refreshing this page for updates.

If you happen to be around, you can also listen in to the livestream of the event here:

Charlie Beckett is introducing Evgeny Morozov, and noting the recent publication of Morozov’s book, The Net Delusion.

Charlie Beckett thanks Julian Assange for wikileaks as a media studies focus!

13:05 Morozov begins with an acknowledgment that it’s extraordinary to be able to talk about the future of an organisation without being involved. What’s fascinating about wikileaks is how quickly it has evolved. Who would have thought that collaborative publishing of documengts in a wiki would make people more willing to diaksnscuss social problems?

We need to remeber that wikileaks was a victim of cyber attacks when they were to release cables, and then this was followed by US companies refusing to allow them to use payment gateways, domains, etc. So anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

For many internet savvy people, they got to realise that this US based response indicated a fundamental problem with internet architecure. For many internet thinkers, the response to wikileaks was grounds for changes in the way that domain names are managed, informatin in shared and payment gateways are managed.

Morozov says we need to be careful about what value wikileaks has to social justice. It is prividing security technology for anonymous sharing of content. They also have the ability to analyse data, and they can recommend which networks (media, diplomatic, etc) should be targeted to promote information and effect change.

Wikileaks is moving toward a much more NGO type model in its analysis functions. This is an extremely boring development for the hackers.

We should also look to Openleaks (founded by former founding member of wikileaks) to see which model (wikileaks or Openleaks) will survive. Morozov says the secrecy within the organisation of Wikileaks may in fact survive beyond Openleaks, because it will be harder to sustain power against structures of global attention to generate change. Not sure that media institutions will be willing to work with the Openleaks model.

The key value of wikileaks is its capacity to keep information anonymous. If the internet has taught us anything, it is that the infrastructure of the internet is uncertain. the technology of wikileaks could easily be built into mainstream media sites. We are yet to determine whether wikileaks will retain its currency of attention when it releases information which is only relevant to local media. If local media built the same technology that wikileaks has, it may make more sense to release that documentation within that network.

Wikileaks does not control who supports it, as a service. Some of the organisations that do support wikileaks are possibly not as trustworthy as wikileaks itself. Morozov notes this is not merely a matter of the effects of Anonymous on wikileaks but also some of the identities who are supposedly supporting wikileaks.

Morozov notes that a recent episode where wikileaks was supposed to be releasing documentation separately, but an individual associated with wikileaks was released instead to Russian newspapers prior to the wikileaks publishing date. This may indeed damage wikileaks in terms of trustworthiness with news media.

Morozov doesn’t think wikileaks is scalable.

Beckett begins questions with a reference to Morozov’s book, which noted that internet technologies could be harnessed by totalitarian governments. Beckett asks why wikileaks is different?

Morozov says that what will happen is that totalitarian governments will get upset about wikileaks and they will do everything in their power to control it.

Beckett asks Morozov about the notion that the only people suffering from wikileaks are Americans.

Morozov doesn’t buy the argument. America has in some respects, benefitted from wikileaks but they won’t acknowledge that. If you look at the kind of documents that wikileaks has published over some years, it was to do with Russia, Europe and Africa. It’s just that US content got more coverage.

Beckett notes that the NGO model is almost a consultancy to wikileaks. Isn’t the fun going to be spoiled if wikileaks becomes more sustainable?

Morozov agrees that people behind wikileaks probably don’t want to go down that model either. He thinks it may be more likely that wikileaks and Assange’s movement may be more interested in going down the path of political activism for information sharing and internet policy development worldwide – privacy, copyright, net neutrality etc as the focus of their attention.

Beckett questions whether objectivity is dead. Is there a trust that is sustained in wikileaks if it becomes politically motivated.

Morozov says it’s not possible to be partial as well as open. They will have to make a shift in order to be sustained. Already there is political action from wikileaks. We have to separate the way wikileaks operates and the way they present themselves to the public.

Question from the floor – would an Australian citizen get as much attention if it were not for dark forces?
Question fron the floor – Clinton’s speech said against cyberattacks then last week found that US was doing it’s own attacks.
Question from the floor – What will wikileaks do to expose political PR?

Q1: Morozov says that citizenship fo the person is irrelevant; could be anyone if they were prepared to live and be outside their country… The FBI and Dept of Justice went after supporters of wikileaks, so US priority for vigilanteeism is clear.

Q2; If you look at Clinton’s speech then her notion that cyberattack action should be punished is interesting as US is doing the same thing. US has to be consistent in responses.

Q3. Morozov doesn’t know what contracts are in place between newspapers and wikileaks, but there are many mpre copies of the content of wikileaks than there are contracts so contracts may well be fallible.

Question from the floor – what happens when cables are faked?

Question from the floor – when NGO model pursued, governments becomes a friend. Will this estrange a lot of supporters?

Question from the floor – what risks wouold be associated with politicising a movement?

Q4: Faked cables are already out there. This is part of the scalability problem they have.

Q5&6: When wikileaks comes to politics, they don’t have to bring an entire political grab bag with them. They can be a single issue party. It may well be that a post-Assange wikileaks – with someone who has a political agenda – may be more effective. Morozov says: to be effective, you need to be boring. Shouldn’t drop Assange as a spokesperson.

Question from the floor – Where do wikileaks and facebook make their money?

Question from the floor – To what extent is Assange naive?

Question from the floor – what is the impact pf wikileaks clones?

Q7: Beckett surprised to describe Facebook and wikileaks in same sentence. Wikileaks doesn’t make money; Facebook does through advertising.

Q8: Yes Assange is naive but it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is what he does now not what he has done.

Q9: Effect on clones will be dependent on what happens to Assange and to the laws that are being built as a result of wikileaks.

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