Information Ethics & WikiLeaks

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Presentation to Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin & Special Library Association
April 14, 2011

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  • Launched in 2006www.wikileaks.ch(was wikileaks.org…more later)Over 1.2 million documents within first yearOriginally launched as traditional “wiki” where users make live edits and commentaryLater changed to more traditional format where people can submit information, but editors decide what to publish
  • Apparent Somali assassination orderGuantanamo Bay operating proceduresSecret 'bibles' of ScientologySarah Palin's Yahoo email account contentsClimategate emailsInternet censorship lists for Australia, Denmark, Thailand570,000 intercepts of pager messages sent on 9/11
  • First document shared by WikiLeaksDecember 2006Uncertain as to its authenticity, WikiLeaks hoped by posting it online, someone could analyze and possibly authenticate itNever resolved, but this first leak brought media attention to WikiLeaks
  • WikiLeaks released a copy of the internal operating procedures of the U.S. Army at the Guantanamo Bay detention campRevealed some of the restrictions placed over detainees at the campincluding the designation of some prisoners as off-limits to the Red Cross, something that the U.S. military had in the past repeatedly denied
  • WikiLeaks published what they referred to as “the collected secret ‘bibles’ of Scientology”Church of Scientology claimed copyright infringement, threatened to sue, and sought the identity of who leaked the documentsIn response, WikiLeaks released several thousand additional pages
  • During 2008 presidential campaign, Palin’s personal email account was hacked by member of “Anonymous”Screenshots and some content posted online, including at WikiLeaks
  • Controversial documents and e-mail correspondence between climate scientists, were released (allegedly after being illegally obtained)WikiLeaks provided access, but wasn’t the original recipient of the leakNotably, the emails were potentially damaging to the pro-environmental movement
  • Internet censorship lists for Australia, Denmark, ThailandSome reveal websites that appear to be beyond the scope of proposed censorship/filtering laws Not just child pornography or terrorism related
  • Series of three air-to-ground attacks conducted by a team of United States Army AH-64 Apache helicoptersNine men were killed, including two members of the media, who’s cameras were mistaken as weaponsTwo versions released:Full 39-minute versionEdited 17-minute version, titled “Collateral Murder”
  • 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan400,000 documents relating to the Iraq warMostly raw field intelligence reports, detailingMundane status reports, but alsoCivilian & friendly-fire casualtiesWar crimes, psy-opsInfluence of outside forcesCriticized for endangering lives of local informants, as well as military personnel
  • Starting in Nov 2010, daily release (~80 per day) of detailed correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the worldOver 250,000 documents, detailing international affairs from 300 embassies dated from 1966–2010containing diplomatic analysis of world leaders, assessments of host countries, discussions about international and domestic issuesLeaked from the U.S. SIPRNet, the U.S. Department of Defense’s classified version of the civilian internet
  • EXPANND ON THESENOTE TENSION
  • 1.4 GB “insurance file” of “embarrassing secret documents”
  • Information Ethics & WikiLeaks

    1. 1. WikiLeaks & Information Ethics<br />Michael Zimmer, PhD<br />Center for Information Policy Research<br />School of Information Studies<br />UW-Milwaukee<br />zimmerm@uwm.edu<br />cipr.uwm.edu<br />
    2. 2. www.wikileaks.ch<br />
    3. 3. Origin<br />Launched in 2006 (wikileaks.org)<br />Originally launched as traditional “wiki” where users make live edits and commentary<br />Later changed to more traditional format where people can submit information, but editors decide what to publish<br />Founded by “Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa”<br />Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its director<br />
    4. 4. Purpose<br />Original<br />"primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.”<br />http://web.archive.org/<br />Current<br />“The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history.”<br />http://www.wikileaks.ch/About.html<br />
    5. 5. Early Releases<br />Apparent Somali assassination order<br />Guantanamo Bay operating procedures<br />Secret 'bibles' of Scientology<br />Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account contents<br />Climategate emails<br />Internet censorship lists for Australia, Denmark, Thailand<br />570,000 intercepts of pager messages sent on 9/11<br />http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_published_by_WikiLeaks<br />
    6. 6. Somali assassination order<br />First document shared by WikiLeaks<br />December 2006<br />Uncertain as to its authenticity, WikiLeaks hoped by posting it online, someone could analyze and possibly authenticate it<br />Never resolved, but this first leak brought media attention to WikiLeaks<br />
    7. 7. Guantanamo Bay operating procedures<br />
    8. 8. Secret “Bibles” of Scientology<br />WikiLeaks published what they referred to as “the collected secret ‘bibles’ of Scientology”<br />Church of Scientology claimed copyright infringement, threatened to sue, and sought the identity of who leaked the documents<br />In response, WikiLeaks released several thousand additional pages<br />
    9. 9. Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account <br />
    10. 10. “Climategate” emails<br />Controversial documents and e-mail correspondence between climate scientists, were released (allegedly after being illegally obtained)<br />WikiLeaksprovided access, but wasn’t the original recipient of the leak<br />Notably, the emails were potentially damaging to the pro-environmental movement<br />
    11. 11. Internet Censorship Blacklists<br />Internet censorship lists for Australia, Denmark, Thailand<br />Some reveal websites that appear to be beyond the scope of proposed censorship/filtering laws <br />Not just child pornography or terrorism related<br />
    12. 12. 9/11 Pager Messages<br />WikiLeaks released 570,000 pager messages sent on the day of the September 11 attacks<br />"the archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its revelation will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the event and its tragic consequences."<br />According to Bradley Manning, they came from NSA database – thus, possibly intercepted by government through illegal surveillance<br />
    13. 13. Recent Releases<br />Video of Baghdad airstrike – “Collateral Murder”<br />Afghanistan and Iraq war logs<br />Diplomatic cables<br />
    14. 14. July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike<br />www.collateralmurder.com<br />
    15. 15. Afghan and Iraq War Logs<br />92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan<br />400,000 documents relating to the Iraq war<br />Mostly raw field intelligence reports, detailing<br />Mundane status reports, but also<br />Civilian & friendly-fire casualties<br />War crimes, psy-ops<br />Influence of outside forces<br />
    16. 16. United States diplomatic cables leak<br />Starting in Nov 2010, daily release (~80 per day) of detailed correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world<br />Over 250,000 documents, detailing international affairs from 300 embassies dated from 1966–2010<br />containing diplomatic analysis of world leaders, assessments of host countries, discussions about international and domestic issues<br />Leaked from the U.S. SIPRNet, the U.S. Department of Defense’s classified version of the civilian internet<br />
    17. 17. Reaction to “Cablegate”<br />WikiLeaks experienced distributed denial of service attacks, attempting to bring down its website<br />Various service providers cut ties<br />DNS provider (making “wikileaks.org” inoperable)<br />Amazon stopped providing hosting services<br />PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa stopped processing donations<br />Air Force personnel were blocked from accessing website, others warned<br />Twitter accounts subpoenaed<br />“Anonymous” counter-attacked websites which were involved in censorship/disruption of Wikileaks<br />
    18. 18. Summary, so far<br />WikiLeaks receives submissions and provides (secure, anonymous) access<br />Rarely, if ever, digs up information itself<br />Sometimes the information is originally obtained illegally<br />Protects sources, as best it can<br />Divulges secrets, exposes power relationships, disrupts global politics (and media)<br />Has limited accountability or regulability<br />
    19. 19. Ethics<br />We use ethics as a means to support (some set of) broader social values<br />Maximizing the greater good<br />Avoiding harm<br />Being fair<br />Respecting human dignity<br />Ensuring justice<br />19<br />
    20. 20. Information Ethics<br />How the pursuit of these values can be supported through the production, storage, distribution, and use of information, as well as the related information systems, infrastructures, policies, and professional duties <br />Broader ethical concerns embedded within issues such as:<br />Information access & control<br />Information security & privacy<br />Intellectual freedom<br />
    21. 21. Information Access & Control<br />WikiLeaks supports access, diminishes control<br />Belief that the greater good is served through openness, transparency<br />Fights strict intellectual property enforcement<br />Encourages whistle blowing<br />But, WikiLeaks is increasingly engaging in control tactics<br />Limiting the release of diplomatic cables<br />Negotiating preferred access with media<br />Editing/annotating content prior to release<br />Withholding an “insurance file” in case something happens to Assange<br />
    22. 22. Information Security & Privacy<br />WikiLeaks has been accused of threatening security & privacy<br />Leaking secret government information threatens national security<br />Leaking names of special ops personnel and informants threatens their safety (and their families)<br />But, there are some positives<br />WikiLeaks is now scrubbing (some) leaks to remove (some) personal information<br />Exposing ease of access to “secure” systems can lead to improved security procedures<br />
    23. 23. Intellectual Freedom<br />WikiLeaks presents unique challenges regarding intellectual freedom<br />ALA / AALL / SLA ethical codes & principles urge providing full access to information to satisfy the unique needs of all patrons<br />What is our ethical responsibility as information professionals?<br />
    24. 24. Intellectual Freedom<br />“Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation”<br />But what if the materials were originally obtained illegally?<br />“Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment”<br />Does this allow resistance to government secrecy?<br />“Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”<br />To what extent should a library cooperate with WikiLeaks, or similar organizations?<br />(ALA Library Bill of Rights)<br />
    25. 25. Resolution on Access to and Classification of Government Information (ALA OIF/COL)<br />WHEREAS, public access to information by and about the government is a basic tenet of a democratic society and crucial to the public’s ability to hold the government accountable for its actions<br />WHEREAS, libraries are essential to the free flow of ideas and to insuring the public’s right to know<br />WHEREAS, a democratic society needs to balance the fundamental right to access government information with the necessity to withhold certain information essential to security<br />…WHEREAS, WikiLeaks’ ongoing disclosure of large numbers of classified and unclassified United States government documents has renewed debate about access to, and classification of government information<br />25<br />
    26. 26. Resolution on Access to and Classification of Government Information (ALA OIF/COL)<br />Urges the [government] to defend the inalienable right of the press and citizens to disseminate information to the public about national security issues and to refrain from initiatives that impair these rights<br />Affirms the principle that government information made public within the boundaries of U.S. law should be available through libraries and the press without restriction (emphasis added)<br />26<br />
    27. 27. Information Ethics & WikiLeaks<br />“Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” (ALA Bill of Rights)<br />“The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history.” (WikiLeaks)<br />“Government information made public within the boundaries of U.S. law should be available through libraries and the press without restriction” (OIF/COL Resolution)<br />
    28. 28. WikiLeaks & Information Ethics<br />Michael Zimmer, PhD<br />Center for Information Policy Research<br />School of Information Studies<br />UW-Milwaukee<br />zimmerm@uwm.edu<br />cipr.uwm.edu<br />

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