WikiLeaks has long been the recipient of strong criticism and vehement support. Its most recent criticism has been directed at the large and widely indiscriminate data dump of potentially sensitive information to the public forum. While, generally speaking, having too much information is better than none at all, it’s questionable whether disseminating information in this manner serves the public good.
WikiLeaks purports to release information as-is, allowing the public to draw their own conclusions. It’s another example of the internet sidestepping mainstream media, since WikiLeaks can post whatever they see fit and become a new kind of media outlet.
People might be more inclined to trust this kind information because of growing cynicism against mainstream media, but the repercussions of some of the information released by WikiLeaks is too grave to overlook.
Though much of the information is generally mundane and useless to the public, little snippets could lead to a diplomatic catastrophe between any two countries or groups. Proper diplomacy is necessary to avoiding international conflict, and WikiLeaks could easily disrupt that by making one sensitive document public.
Some WikiLeaks critics suggest the best alternative would be to hand over their information to a legitimate news source, such as more reputable newspapers. They are, in the end, the ones relied on to sift through the information.
Trained reporters would be able to sift through the vast amounts of information to determine whether or not it is in the public interest to publish it. That would focus everyone’s attention on information that they should know, rather than an endless stream of pointless or harmful material that is normally found through the internet.
That would, of course, defeat the mission statement set out by Assange, which fundamentally requires using means other than the mainstream media. And while data dumps could lead to dangerous consequences, WikiLeaks mandate seems to prohibit them from censoring the information themselves because it would turn them into gatekeepers — much like the people they’re keeping it from.
The nuances surrounding the types of information, the motives for releasing it and the merits of mainstream media make it too difficult to strictly condemn or condone WikiLeaks. What they’re releasing is, ultimately, just information — information that can be used as a force of creation or destruction. It’s up to the media, government and the individual to treat it as such, understand the information provided and the context in which it is given and act accordingly.