As we all know, the freedom of communication and expression through the use of media and published materials, also known as the freedom of the press, has become more controversial as the use of technology by the public has drastically increased. Media sources such as print, broadcast, and the web play a major role in how today's citizens receive their news. This was very evident during the last presidential elections as both candidates use all forms of media on the campaign trail to reach potential voters. But often, some may even say, the rights granted to us by the constitution are constantly abused and freedom of the press is one such right since anyone who publishes information on the web is essentially a reporter and protected by the freedom of press clause in the bill of rights.
As our nation and the world at large continue to grow and become more globalized, technologies are playing a vital role in that growth. The most widely known and influential form of media is by far the Internet. Millions of Americans and billions worldwide have access to the web but when someone abuses its use (cyber-bullying, issuing threats, etc.), what actions must authorities take to ensure public safety? This was one of many important questions I asked myself as I, along with many Americans, were bombarded with news on the infamous Wikileaks
and its release of secret and now controversial documents. As you may already know, Wikileaks is an international non-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified information from anonymous sources. Launched in 2006, the website's creator, Julian Assange
, was and still heavily criticized for his ownership of Wikileaks and its releases of top-secret information. Wikileaks
is famously known for releases such as published materials on extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast, inflammatory words by State Department officials to describe their overseas counterparts, and the War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan, among others. To some, Wikileaks is a much welcomed organization and is seen as a revolutionary organization that exposes government secrets in order to make them more open to its citizens. According to Time, Wikileaks “could become as important a journalistic tool as the freedom of information act.” But others, namely governments, see it as a threat to national security. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton claims
“the illegal publication of classified information poses real concerns and even potential damage to our friends and partners worldwide.”
Wikileaks and other such organizations are protected by the US Constitution's freedom of speech/press clause. I personally feel that all the rights granted to us by the constitution and subsequent laws should be protected until that right or law becomes a threat to public and in Wikileaks case, national safety. Wikileaks' insistence on releasing classified national security information, especially Afghan war documents, could lead to attack on our troops in what is becoming an increasingly difficult war. It could also inform terrorists how we are hunting them, deter collaboration from our partners overseas and strengthen the arguments of our adversaries.
But when and how is materials published on the web considered a danger and how can we ban such acts if they are legally protected? It is one those questions our legal system has yet to clearly define and one with which our government and others across the world must grapple with as the medium to which citizens receive information continues to increase. National governments may argue, that such medium is becoming an unwanted headache.