Soak It Up With Paper Towels: WIKILEAKS

This subject is somewhat complicated, but I need to blog about it anyway. Let’s start from the beginning. Wikileaks is a website that publishes highly sensitive material that has been leaked from  govevernent sources or other types of organizations. The sources are always kept confidential and the website never reveals how documents are leaked (by accident or intentionally by an inside source.) The site is kept afloat by personal donations alone, that is, by people sending money to their website or developing open source software pro bono for the website.

Now that we are caught up on that, let’s move on to current events. On Monday April 5, Wikileaks revealed a video showing an air attack on Baghdad that killed 12 Iraqi civilians and 2 Reuters journalists that were said to be killed due to combat of “hostile forces”. The video shows US military initiating an airstrike on these people because they mistook their video cameras for AK-47s. Hostile forces indeed. I will not link directly to this video, but you are more than welcome to seek it out yourself. It should not be hard to find (especially considering that it is the first thing on the Wikileaks site).

There are obviously several ethical questions we need to ask.

1. Is it ethical to show these gruesome and unnecesarry murders to the public? Should this video be broadcast on television?

2. Is it unethical to keep the public in the dark about this issue. Is it our duty to promote justice?

3. Is it ethical for Wikileaks to host such material on their website? Is it ethical to have a site dedicated to “outting” people and in some cases shame them?

4. Is it ethical for Wikileaks to be requesting money and labor from their devotees? Even when they host classified government documents?

5. Is is ethical for people to create mirrors of the Baghdad video in case it gets taken down from the internet?

6. Etc.


3 thoughts on “Soak It Up With Paper Towels: WIKILEAKS

  1. I am sure that this web site, and others similar to it, are hosting similarly disturbing videos. This kind of reminds me of the Olympics video that NBC showed of the athlete dying. Is it completely unethical? Oh yes, completely. But is it news? Yes. And it would have been embarrassing for NBC not to break the news.

    The same goes for this Web site. It’s unethical but it’s news. The web site is owned by its followers and the argument could have been made that it would have been unethical NOT to show them some of the material they pay for. Whether or not they feel it’s kosher to post might come second to the obligations that they have to their shareholders. I personally believe that they should warn viewers of the scandalous images before they are allowed to click play.

    Do I think it’s unethical to host a web site that has images of sensitive data and images of people being murdered? Yes, I think it is unethical. But with so few true public watchdogs left (and many people trying so hard to be public watchdogs but failing), it seems like a tough decision to call this web site completely unethical.

  2. @Carla
    I see nothing unethical about the website. Legitimate news networks use anonymous sources all the time. If it’s news, I don’t see how it can be unethical. And they don’t pay for it, they donate to it, much like they donate to Wikipedia.

    1. Simple answer: yes. More complex, maybe. Does it serve a purpose? To me this is just another example of the fog of war and the increasingly complex situation on the ground in the Middle East. Does it need to be put up? In this case, yes. It doesn’t appear a lot of attention was given to this particular incident.

    2. Yes and no. If they inform the families of what transpired, that should be enough. To me that doesn’t amount to a cover-up, which is unethical. And yes, we should promote justice. I don’t think we need to qualify that.

    3. So far I haven’t seen wikileaks host anything that’s of a shaming nature. And it’s not so much about outing people as it is whistleblowing of sorts.

    4. Requesting donations is nothing out of the ordinary, and the Sunshine Press does not request labor from their readers.

    5. Once it’s out on the net, it’s a crapshoot. Does that make it ethical? Not necessarily, but some may feel like people need to know about this incident, and mirror it to ensure that they are educated about it.

    6. Yes.

  3. I have always felt we (citizens in the US) have always been kept in the dark whenever things like this occur. We, as people, always feel sympathy and automatically reject any and all violence/harm we cause to other less fortunate countries. Regardless of it being news as Carla states, it is reality more than anything. Would it be ethical to withhold information about innocent civilians being murdered? No.

    I don’t believe they are “outting” people and shaming them, they are informing the public of issues which are occurring in other parts of the world that we are shielded from.

    Wikileaks isn’t requesting money from its devotee’s but they do accept donations as in any other organization.

    Why is it ethical for attacks on our soil to become “fair game” as far as media is concerned but when we cause harm to innocent civilians it is hidden/taken down? I don’t see the unethical implications of this website at all but that could be caused by my own biases.

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