Whatever the political and military implications of WikiLeaks are going to be, it has incited an entirely new debate on the Internet: what happens to the “Open Web” and net neutrality?
The latest episodes of PayPal, Amazon and various other businesses distancing themselves from WikiLeaks under overt or covert pressure from the establishment have raised many doubts on these companies. Amazon for instance sells books and through its e-book reader Kindle it is promoting digital books in a big way. How can you trust this company to sell books that question the way various governments operate? What will Amazon do if its customers want to read a particular book but the government doesn’t want it to sell it?
There are many publications these days that are solely managed in the cloud. Newspapers are rapidly wrapping up. There are many major newspapers who have totally wound up their print publications (good in terms of saving the trees, of course) and all their content resides in the cloud, totally at the mercy of the web hosting companies. Just a flick of the switch, and there goes your newspaper. Even your domain name can be shut down.
The situation wasn’t this grim in the past when the newspaper was published on the paper nobody could stop it from being accessed by the public. Censorship can be much more severe nowadays.
Even Twitter who postponed its critical and scheduled update during the recent unrest in Iran to support the democratic moment in the country, is rumoured to have meddled with its algorithm in order to prevent WikiLeaks from trending.
WikiLeaks has obviously awakened people from the misconception that the Internet is totally free and unencumbered. Influential agencies (and we are not talking about China and Saudi Arabia) can decide any day what you can see and what you cannot see.
What is the solution? Keeping the flow of information on the Internet away from the ambit of government interference. There can be exceptions, such as terrorist activities, but otherwise there should be some well-defined laws sustain net neutrality and openness of the web. If need be United Nations must interfere in this matter and a consensus must be achieved in order to keep the Internet totally open.
What do you think? Is the freedom of the Internet threatened by the current events? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.