Hope in the fight against censorship
Wikileaks and Haystack are helping to protect our ability to know what's really going on.
With all the doom and gloom about the restrictive efforts governments are trying to place on citizens, in places such as Iran and Australia, it's heartening to hear of two groups shining a bright light on attempts to restrict internet freedoms and keep state secrets from the people. The former is a tool called Haystack, developed by the non-profit Censorship Research Center. It was founded by Austin Heap who saw that Iran was placing severe limits on its citizens' use of the web and twitter during unrest at the last, widely disputed Presidential elections. This prompted Heap to develop Haystack to circumvent censorship by the state. The second and perhaps most unpalatable to all governments is Wikileaks. Western governments have been happy to keep quiet when the site reveals embarrassing leaked documents from non-democratic regimes and big business. They're less happy when their own secrets are leaked. The most notable is the recent expose of censored footage from US military helicopters in a 2007 Baghdad assault, which shows the killing of 12 people who turned out to be unarmed civilians, one of whom was a newspaper photographer. The shootings took place in an area that had previously experienced clashes between groups of fighters. Of course, mistakes are being made in war-zones all the time. Perhaps full disclosure would have been a more honest and less damaging long-term strategy for the US military and the then Bush presidency. But now Wikileaks has forced the US military to admit that the footage is real; inevitably the repercussions are likely to be much worse than if the wrongful killings had been admitted and put into context when the incident happened. We're fortunate to have services like Wikileaks and Haystack which take up the slack in investigative journalism which newspapers used to do so well. Wikileaks and Haystack are our only line of defence in preventing state sponsored censorship, whether it be non-democratic or otherwise.