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Week 9 – WikiLeaks & Anonymous

by on September 14, 2012

PART I – WIKILEAKS

To learn about WikiLeaks, Watch this video.

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BACKGROUND INFO

WikiLeaks was started by Julian Assange, who was originally from Melbourne.

Julian discovered that if he could gather a large collective of people (of about 1,000 and almost all volunteers), he was able to use all the computers combined to hack into government data bases and download many confidential files, which in-turn exposed many world issues which would otherwise have never been found by the mass media. Allison Powell explains that the initial goal of WikiLeaks was to fill the “individual interests of Julian Assange” and now, a broader community of people who agree.WikiLeaks as a collective aim to expand the ‘defense of freedom of speech and media publishing’. According to an article in the New York times, in 2010 alone, Julian Assange and his activist group exposed many 9/11 pager messages, 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war and 77,000 pentagon statements on the Afghan conflict, and it doesn’t stop there.

Regardless of what WikiLeaks exposed specifically, we must remember that WikiLeaks itself is simply just the start of a new media phenomenon. The phenomenon is  essentially about society gaining information about issues that were otherwise being kept hidden away from them, that may in fact effect them a great deal. Alison Powell suggests that WikiLeaks is “not making an alternative to the production of mass media” but in fact it is “innovating upon it”. Simply, together with old media and WikiLeaks combined, we get new media. This means that the society as a whole, is more informed about what is happening in the world around them, and provides a new sense of freedom.

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THE PHENOMENON

The influence that networks now have on power has increased dramatically. The transformation of this new media power now allows us to use the internet to form a resistance to the powerful forces of the world, allowing the common people to have more rights within public issues, as nothing can really be ‘hidden’ anymore. Galloway (2004) suggests that power in such distributed networks include different protocol compared to the power that we used to see. This new form of power through distributed networks, works in such a way that one independent person is linked with many other people around the world in an ‘informal’ way. This includes limited guidelines as opposed to the form of a regular corporation. This form is described by theorists like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri as ‘nomadic‘ resistance.

EXPLOITATION OF THE NEWS PROCESS

 The phenomenon of WikiLeaks includes two types of exploitation; the exploitation of the news process and the exploitation of the internet.

WikiLeaks became popular due to its fortunate ability to exploit the news production process. the leaked documents had internet scholars, security specialists and hackers talking, however not in  the way Julian Assange intended. In-turn, Assange formed tight relationships with news organizations to transform the news production process to suit his intentions and for the benefit of WikiLeaks. The partnerships he formed expanded well beyond his expectations, drawing significant attention to WikiLeaks. The usual process in which news is reported or ‘exposed’ in professional practice is quite simply selfish. Media outlets tend to only publicize secrets when there is profit to be made, thus manipulating truths to maintain pubic interest. However the relationship between WikiLeaks and mass media journalists was quite turbulent. Jason Assange would on occasion threaten to release uncensored diplomatic cables, if the process didn’t go according to him. WikiLeaks thus transformed the news production process.With the use of the internet, Wikileaks made public unfiltered, unedited news, secrets and leaks that journalists could not touch.

EXPLOITATION OF THE INTERNET

It was after WikiLeaks released countless diplomatic cables and documents, that it experienced backlash from governments and organizations. There was no wan increased pressure to have WikiLeaks shut down. Large organizations like Visa and Mastercard, joined the push to have WikiLeaks terminated by cutting off funding. Amazon stopped hosting the WikiLeaks domain in an attempt to make it unreachable. However, public support for WikiLeaks and its renegade leader, Julian Assange was at an all time high. At the very instant of WikiLeaks being shut down, thousands of mirror sites were uploaded by  loyal supporters, thus making it impossible to eradicate. WikiLeaks gain support from the infamous hacking group Anonymous, who also shut down the Mastercard and PayPal websites as a form of support. This shows us that the internet can be exploited by not only a news broadcaster or journalist, but also by individuals and collectives world wide. in other words, anybody with access to the internet can create an impact.

Every leak is still available to this day and it is freely accessible on their website.

 
PART II ‘ From the Lulz to collective action’

Some terms worth knowing;

LULZ – Laughter at someone Else’s expense

IRC – Internet Relay Chat

Anonymous – Not the traditional ,meaning. In the readings it refers to an hactivist group that go by the name of ‘anonymous’

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ANONYMOUS

The word ANONYMOUS represents a gathering of people that work together towards the same intent. According to Marco Deseriis, the group is made up of ” organized collectives, affinity groups, and individual authors”. In other words… It is an association  in which is made up of large groups and individuals that team up and go by the alias of ‘anonymous’.

To better understand what is anonymous and what they do… watch this video.

Gabriella Coleman (Author of this weeks reading) suggests that ANONYMOUS consists mainly of people that are motivated by their desire for information freedom.

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POLITICAL BIRTH OF ANONYMOUS

As the video (what are anonymous) illustrates , anonymous was first seen trolling through an image board website called 4chan. People under the alias of ‘anonymous’ used the site to disclose personal information about individuals that was often humiliating, it also used the site to play ridiculous pranks like sending unpaid pizzas to random peoples households.

Since 2006 ‘anonymous’ has been instigating trolling for the sake of the ‘LULZ’  (that word again) .

In 2008, anonymous was seen in a whole new light as it took trolling to a new level with its fury against the church of Scientology. Basically, A video starring Tom cruise praising the theocracy of Scientology was leaked outside of the church and so the church aimed to end the circulation of the video before it went viral. Anonymous decided they didn’t agree with the churches cover-up and so they began a series of raids and attacks towards Scientology … and the reason being was simply for the sake of the LULZ.

This video is one example of the many attacks against the church of Scientology

In February 2008 roughly 6,000 people protested across North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia supporting ‘anonymous’ view on Scientology, that being that is a “dangerous cult”.

Anonymous supporters left their computer chairs and took a call to action. This itself demonstrates how powerful an influence digital networks can have over the world, by the flow of information via the internet… individuals from all over the globe were able to hear the message that  anonymous members I guess were proposing. Starting off as a small feud, social media expanded the operation and was used to set dates and times for these protests over a variety of different mediums.

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OPERATION PAYBACK

Operation payback is an organized and decentralized group of attacks on high profile opponents by internet activists under the alias or apart of the group ‘anonymous.

Operation payback generally worked by launching a number of DDOS attacks (distributed denial of service) on high traffic websites like formula 1, CIA website and godaddy.com.

Most famously, hacker’s shutdown sites like paypal, visa and mastercard. Which brings us back to wiki leaks. Anonymous hackers hoping to avenge wikileaks and Julian Assange worked together to put anti-wikleaks websites to a halt. Paypal and visa were a target as that discontinued their services to wikileaks because of the trial and anonymous sought payback.

We were given this particular reading this week not to learn about Wikileaks and anonymous but  rather get an idea of the capacity and power that any user can have by utilizing networking sites.

Internet relay chat sites (IRC) have no barriers to participation, anyone can join in and become I guess a member of anonymous. The internet is limitless, however the more skills we posses determines how much we may be exposed to. Although Anonymous claims to have no hierarchy or bureaucratic order, those that can work a computer opposed to the everyday person obviously have more power or more flexibility as they initiate the attacks.

What we can take away about Anonymous is that since 2008 it has become a gateway for internet activists to take action. Anonymous provides opportunities that allow individuals to be part of something big. As the readings state “You don’t have to fill out a form with your personal information, you aren’t being asked to send money, you don’t even have to even give your name but you do feel like you are actually part of something larger”.

Anonymity is a way for many to express their views, whilst being assured that it will not come back to haunt them later.

 

QUESTIONS

 Do you consider WikiLeaks the new media power?

Is the way in which WikiLeaks exploited the news process, positive or negative?

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One Comment
  1. really hate the idea of anonymity enabling people to say whatever they want online without consequence. Obviously this freedom of speech is such a crucial aspect of free media and the internet, but words are not always just words! they have the power to incite anger and hatred and cause real world social issues!

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