Wikileaks: The internet ideal triumphs
06 Dec 2010

As hundreds of mirror sites circumvent attempts at internet censorship of the Cablegate documents, Wikileaks journalist James Ball calls on the US to remember its principles on internet freedom

If Wikileaks were to disappear permanently from the internet today, tomorrow’s embassy cables stories would still appear.

Not that removing Wikileaks would prove straightforward: though the main site has had to move its servers after Amazon withdrew hosting, and change its web address after EveryDNS cancelled Wikileaks’ account, it is still up and running.

Even on Wednesday, the day the site was most disrupted, Cablegate received 54m hits, from at least 3.6m unique individuals. Duplicate copies of Wikileaks are now loaded hundreds of different servers worldwide. Even PayPal’s closure of Wikileaks’ account has so far proved little more than an annoyance.

But even these could all vanish tomorrow, thanks to an even more traditional fallback: old media. The New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais are all running Wikileaks material.

All shared the same editorial judgement as Wikileaks having seen the material: they judged it in the public interest and chose to run it. At this point, these sites are running the same cables as Wikileaks. They have contributed to the redactions.

The Guardian website, at the time of writing, actually contains more US material than Wikileaks’ own. None have faced the political or technical backlash of the main Wikileaks site, yet all would have to be taken offline to bury the Embassy Cables story.

Yet the ineffectiveness of the censorship efforts from the US Government, Senator Joe Lieberman and others does not detract from their troubling nature.

In a sense, attempts by Lieberman and the French government to prevent web hosts providing servers to Wikileaks are the least problematic issue — in the print press era, printers and distributors were regularly targeted with lawsuits when governments or private individuals sought to prevent stories getting out.

Targeting web hosts is merely the modern take on an old trick; and one which doesn’t seem to work nearly so well in the web era. Controversial publications which lack Wikileaks’ audience and resilience, on the other hand, may be anxiously watching current developments.

What is newer — and disturbing — is attempts by governments to prevent millions of their citizens from reading this material. America’s 19m federal government employees have been told not to read the cables material — or any publication containing them. Agencies have added virtually every mainstream news outlet to web filters and blocks, a move reminiscent of China’s Great Firewall.

Students at Columbia University have been advised not to comment on the cables if they might want a government job. And a US data visualisation company, Tableau, has even retracted derivative works based on the Wikileaks stories, without receiving a single specific request to do so.

The US government’s efforts to stop this story show both a distressing lack of commitment to the core internet principles of transparency and neutrality, and also a fundamental lack of understanding of its infrastructure.

Recent events should not disturb only journalists or campaigners – based on their recent public comments, it should prove a cause for concern for a pair of prominent Americans, too.

The first strident voice, speaking at a town hall meeting in China said:

“The more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves.

He concluded,

“I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free internet — or unrestricted internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged,”

A second speaker called, in January this yea said:

“Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere. And in America, American companies need to make a principled stand…This needs to be part of our national brand. I’m confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles”

The identities of these two radical firebrands? None other than President Barack Obama, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

I couldn’t agree with them more.

James Ball is an investigative journalist currently working with Wikileaks


Jillian C York: Wikileaks and the hazards of “intermediary censorship”
Plus Wikileaks and State Department correspondence

38 responses to “Wikileaks: The internet ideal triumphs”

  1. […] Index on Censorship » Blog Archive » Wikileaks: The internet ideal … Share and […]

  2. […] Index on Censorship » Blog Archive » Wikileaks: The internet ideal … Esta entrada foi publicada em E-Commerce, Internet e marcada com a tag cablegate, internet, […]

  3. Steve says:

    It is such a shame that the people voted in by individuals to represent them do not wish to be accountable by those same individuals. Transparency seems to be a dirty word in politics worldwide. Good on WIKILEAKS for having the balls to take it back to the source so we all can see what some people are capable of, again and again and etc.

  4. […] article I read this morning is this: Wikileaks: The internet ideal triumphs (Index on Censorship) ( This entry was posted in harassment. Bookmark the permalink. ← Another beautiful […]

  5. […] a defiant post for the Index of Censorship, he writes: Duplicate copies of Wikileaks are now loaded hundreds of different servers worldwide. Even PayPal’s closure of Wikileaks’ account has so far proved little more than an […]

  6. SARASTRO says:


  7. Jack says:

    I hope Assange is innocent of the charges laid against him. I say hope, because even if he’s guilty, there’s little or no chance that any jury will ever convict him, unless they are hand-picked to do so.

    Personally I don’t think any of the Wikileaks material is telling us any more than the finer details of a broad picture we all knew as already true – that the USA is now little more than the Fourth Reich, and the UK ‘special relationship’ little more than that of a vassal state.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Another very striking thing about this whole story is to see how hypocritical and bigoted so-called liberal and progressive countries like Sweden and Canada are in reality. Personally I always disliked their self-righteous mentality but this amount of bullshit is surprising even to me.

  9. Charles Feron says:

    Mr. James Ball,

    Excellent article.
    Thank you

    Charles Feron

  10. Zeno says:

    Frederick Douglass:
    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they have resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.

  11. Brian says:

    The band of support IMO needs to become very strong in the support of Assange. So strong in fact that we not allow governments to rule against the people. The diplomats of this country (and others) have been brought into question and I will also agree that is exactly the transparency we were promised. Did Obama think we would forget? I (we) are tired of all the lies and corruption, it needs to end. The people have pulled in their asses while the diplomatic laundering continues right under our noses. If it takes a revolution then so be it. We should stand in support of Assange to keep him a free and safe man. Fear not your government for their power is only derived from the people. This is IMO the greatest cause to support.

  12. Alex says:

    It was a true pleasure to read this! Thank you for all you do, guys!

  13. […] British organization Index on Censorship has some interesting quotes on internet censorship, especially considering the current crisis over leaked diplomatic cables.  My favorite: The more […]

  14. JGrey888 says:

    This, from Get Smart, is so fitting:

    Maxwell Smart: You know, Chief, this nude bomb might solve a lot of problems.
    Chief: Such as?
    Maxwell Smart: Well for one thing, flashers.
    Chief: Only you would think of a that, Max.
    Maxwell Smart: That’s why they pay me the big bucks. And there’d be no more trouble with concealed weapons. I mean if everyone was nude, there’d be no place to hide a gun or a knife. Well, there is a place, but it could be painful.

  15. Tom says:

    American government has shown its true bigoted, hypocrite, Democracy hating self. Fascist from the get go, and is the pot calling the kettle black all over the world without even the slightest shame for itself. Every President lately turns into a disgrace for its people while Israel laughs all the way to the bank like Madoff has done.

  16. Anonymous says:

    How blind people are not seeing how false western goverments are…

  17. Anonymous says:

    @ Linda
    I have to ask, why is Assange only picking on the US? Why doesn’t he leak from other countries, like Russia or China? Because they would kill him that is why. I don’t think this is fair. But nothing in life is fair. Assange do the same to other countries and see what they will do. Coward.

    Linda, please educate yourself before stating something as biased and ignorant as what you posted. Wikileaks does not focus on the US alone, there are many leaked documents about almost any other country in the world. Of course it’s ridiculous to think that you should know about them, probably you only heard about Wikileaks a few days ago, since people like you usually spend their time gossiping on Facebook and Twitter.

    No western country is a true democracy, liberty and freedom of speech is a mere facade to keep the populace quit. Assange is a hero of our time and you are the coward for refusing to see your country as it is. Furthermore many American politicians have called for Assange to be killed, completely negating your claims.

  18. Space Monkey says:

    These old geezers in government don’t understand the internet–and they fear it.

    They think taking down Assange will stop this? How many times have we seen these actions before? In the history of the net — when you take down the primary “source” of anything, 10 more sources spring up in its place, and the movement is strengthened.

    The oligarchy that runs the US empire should go nurse their wounds with the RIAA: they will not win this one.

    What they’re doing right now is attempting to bring down the “napster” of free information — look what’s happened in file sharing since napster. These pols are entirely ignorant of what they do–they’re playing with fire, and they WILL be burned by the masses.

  19. […] Index on Censorship » Blog Archive » Wikileaks: The internet ideal triumphs […]

  20. Chris Kraucunas says:

    So, when will we see classified materials from countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and North Korea?

    The piffling quantity of actually valuable information released thus far in “Cablegate” should lead one to question the continuing value of wikileaks at all, as well as Assange’s motives. This just looks like a pathetic attempt at America-bashing, rather than exposing governmental lies. I say pathetic attempt because some of the cables actually make the US look restrained on foreign policy, i.e., refusing Arab requests to bomb Iran

  21. Opal says:

    what happened to “Glasnost”???
    thought US government sooo demanded it from the USSR?
    (put yer money where yer mouth is, seems to be the appropriate phase here…)

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m a pessimist, I believe that the new Dark Ages are about to dawn. Enjoy your freedom and rights as your grand-grand-grandchildren mayn’t.

  23. john649 says:

    the dam has broken and the USA is trying to plug one of the leaks with a thumb thru intimidation and threats while the river is running wild all around them. Wonder what they will do when they are up to their ears with the truth swimming around them.

  24. Alessandro says:

    Great article!

  25. itsme says:

    this is not about wikileaks or the us government, but a mere sign of the information-age consequences.

    regulation is rapidly becoming obsolete, so let the reigns go to the unfolding

  26. rick says:

    James if you were a woman, I’d want you to have my babies

  27. Linda says:

    I believe in freedom of speech. Do not blame the people of the US. It is the crooked politicians. The facists are the Obama administration. We have some Republicans in there now and hopefully they can change things. Give them a chance. But I have to say, all politicians are nothing but crooks. I have to ask, why is Assange only picking on the US? Why doesn’t he leak from other countries, like Russia or China? Because they would kill him that is why. I don’t think this is fair. But nothing in life is fair. Assange do the same to other countries and see what they will do. Coward.

  28. Loren Hart says:

    Great article James! Thanks for all of your good work.

  29. veeman says:

    i cant believe whats going on here. America The Free Until YOU DISAGREE with them.
    WE Need cables on the federal reserve.
    there the worst im sure.

  30. veeman says:

    i cant believe whats going on here. America The Free Until YOU DISAGREE with them.
    WE Need cables on the federal reserve.

  31. phil says:

    It just shows what a bunch of hypocrites politicians are!! and not only to their own people but also to people of “supposed” allied nations…

  32. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait until Assange is arrested, and the US government finds out that trying to stop the flow of information is impossible. Seems they think this is Assange’s fault; Assange is merely the vehicle the information is using for the time being. Censorship never works.

  33. A Real American says:

    America the Free is now America the Fascist.

  34. Rogue says:

    I agree it is sad to see the American government acting so childish. Trying to block something that there own constitution says they have no right to block. What kind of world do we live in where governments can forget the constitution when they want to do something, but strictly uphold it when prosecuting it’s own citizens hmmmm. This was a very good article.

  35. Artur Barrera says:

    My son, Freedom is best, I tell thee true, of all things to be won.

    William Wallace.

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  37. Itchy Bites says:

    Nice read. It is truly disappointing to see democratic governments attempting to shut Wikileaks who in fact only fulfill basic democratic principles of the freedom of speech and information.