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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

Event: Will Wikileaks Transform American Diplomacy?

This at 4pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011, the Burkle Center at UCLA will host the second of their three-part series on Wikileaks.

The panelists will consider the implications of WikiLeaks’ latest release for American diplomacy. Have the media played a responsible or even defensible role by releasing these diplomatic cables? What will be the effect on the future relationship of the media and American diplomats in particular and the media and the American government in general? Are the media supposed to protect the establishment or act as a watchdog in the public interest?

The panelists are Geoffrey Cowen and Ambassador Derek Shearer. The moderator is Kal Raustiala.

More information, including RSVP is at the Burkle Center website.

I’ll be there.

The third part of the series is entitled “What are the Legal Implications of Wikileaks?” This will take placed Wednesday, 26 January 2011, at 12:15pm at the UCLA Law School. The moderate is again Kal Raustiala and the panelists are Norman Abrams, David Kaye, Jon Michaels, and Eugene Volokh (blog). RSVP for Part III here.

Understanding Influence: A Matter of National Security

By John M. Koval III

image_thumb[1] This post is inspired by your Nov. 1, 2010, post titled Wikileaks as an exemplar of Now Media, Part 1. I agree with you that anyone can be influential, and that it’s impractical to distinguish between consumers, creators, audiences, and media. That being said, we’re failing as a country to understand influence, not as a subjective skill, but as a system, or, perhaps more accurately, as a weapons system.

From a national security perspective, we have an obligation to know exactly how state and non-state actors, like Wikileaks founder Jules Assange, employ influence. In the 21st century, we’re fighting influence wars against traditional states, transnational networks, bloggers, media, and countless others. Yet, we don’t have a framework to fight these wars. It’s as if we’ve begun the Manhattan Project without the periodic table of chemical elements.

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Wikileaks, Assange and the UN, an example of propaganda

imageThe Wikileaks community and Wikileaks watchers are actively and likely inadvertently the myth that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and front-man, is giving a “keynote” at the UN this week. They are forwarding a Tweet from @Wikileaks that includes a link to a Reuters “Factbox” article that appears to indicate Assange is speaking at the UN. In fact, he is not giving the “keynote” or otherwise speaking at the UN Human Rights meeting but at a press conference put on by the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR), a nongovernmental organization registered in Switzerland. A minor detail.

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Wikileaks as an exemplar of Now Media, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore our world of disappearing boundaries – from geographic to linguistic to time to organizational – that create new opportunities and challenges to agenda setting and influence. Wikileaks, as an exemplar non-state actor in this world of “now media,” requires analysis beyond the superficial and polarized debate common in today’s coverage of both the organization and the material it disseminates. The MountainRunner Institute is working to convene a series of discussions with experts across the spectrum, including (ideally) someone from Wikileaks, to discuss the role and impact of actors like Wikileaks and the evolving informational and human landscape. If you are interested in more information or in participating, email me at blog@mountainrunner.us.

WikileaksIn 1927, H.G. Wells wrote that modern communication “opened up a new world of political processes” where “ideas and phrases can now be given an effectiveness greater than the effectiveness of any personality and stronger than any sectional interest.”* Nearly ninety years later, this remains true with both the speed of communication and the consequences of failure far greater than possibly even Wells could have anticipated. Influence has become democratized with nearly anyone potentially capable of setting the agendas of world leaders – take for example a pastor in Florida or a person with a camera phone capturing the death of a woman in Tehran. So to has disruption become democratized to the point governments no longer need to be involved to severely impact economic, political or military interests. “Sectional interests” once divided by geography, culture, language, nationalism or ideology can be now convened and aligned with great effectiveness as the past barriers often become little more than footnotes.

Today, it is difficult and often impractical to distinguish between news consumer and creator, between mediums of information, or between audiences that have evolved to “stakeholders” and “participants.” Technology made “old media” and “new media” now quaint artifacts of a past struggle of segregation based on first platforms and then business models. Instead of “old” and “new”, we have Now Media operating across evaporating borders of technology or distance and time, within and across fluid associations and affinities, and flattens (even obliterates) hierarchies while bypassing and even co-opting traditional gatekeepers of information.

Continue reading “Wikileaks as an exemplar of Now Media, Part 1” »

Definition of irony: event in London on censorship and Wikileaks bans photography and recording (updated)

At City University, London, right now is a conference titled “Too much information? Security and censorship in the age of Wikileaks.” The speakers are: Jonathan Dimbleby, chair; Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder; and David Aaronovitch, The Times.

Ironically, the event’s website states

Please note it will not be possible to take photos or recordings during this event.

At the event, the audience was reminded that they may not take pictures of the panel with Julian Assange.

Confusingly, the organizers also said:

We hope to run a live stream of the event, the link to this will be posted at www.city.ac.uk/journalism

Alas, there is no information on the webcast.

Tweets from the event so far include:

AarrBee: Assange seems to be suggesting Wikileaks doesn’t need to be accountable, because others aren’t. Not persuaded.

umaronline: Q: How do you decide what is published? – Assange > ‘We are a publisher. We’re funded by the public. The public decides.’

More to follow…

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The Importance of Understanding Wikileaks

City University London is hosting a conversation with Wikileaks front man Julian Assange on 30 September 2010. The event, titled Too much information, security and censorship in the age of Wikileaks, will ostensibly ask several questions stemming from the sensational release of tens of thousands of internal military communications, labeled the Afghan War Diaries by Wikileaks:

Was this a victory for free expression? Or a stunt that put hundreds of lives in danger? Is censorship a necessary evil in wartime? And will mass leaking of information change journalism?

To be sure, this was not an exercise of “free expression.” An expression would be the labeling and framing of the material. The purpose was, as Wikileaks purports is their mission, to create transparency for the purpose of accountability. City University should then ask if this mission was accomplished and, if so, was there a cost? The questions must move beyond what Assange says he wants to achieve and challenge him on the results he gets.

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The world of Wikileaks Part 2: A means of evaluating Public Diplomacy

By Ali Fisher

Wikileaks Part 2 looks at the impact of releasing information through the traditional media on the network of interactions using social media and reflects on the potential to use network analysis in evaluation. (See also The Small World of Wikileaks, Part 1.)

image From a Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy perspective, evaluation has become increasingly important with forthcoming reports and even spending decisions, for example, in the UK. If an organisation is seeking to develop lasting relationships, seeking to subsequently identify those relationships would be a logical part of any evaluation or bid for further funding.

The example of Wikileaks has much in common with those engaged in Public Diplomacy and seeking to measure their attempts to disperse information on specific issues. In terms of Public Diplomacy, Wikileaks part 1 discussed creating a baseline of interactions and information sharing behaviours. Part 1 also highlighted that information about Wikileaks was trapped in a ‘Small World’ limiting the ability of Wikileaks to go mainstream.

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The Small World of Wikileaks, Part 1 – What might this have to do with Public Diplomacy?

By Ali Fisher

The now familiar story of the release of documents by Wikileaks and reported by the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel has been analysed from numerous angles considering potential impact on reputation and the relationship between digital and the more traditional print media.

The experience of Wikileaks has much in common with those engaged in Public Diplomacy and seeking to measure their attempts to disperse information on specific issues. Examining Wikileaks provides a case study of an attempt to map a network of influence and identify key nodes within that network.

The first step is to establish a baseline, which this post will cover, using data from June (prior to the release of documents). The increasing notoriety of Wikileaks during June was paralleled by increasing problems including the degradation and eventual collapse of the secure submission process, as reported by Ryan Singel. These technical issues and time spent dealing with the ripple effect from the arrest of Bradley Manning had the potential to interfere with the core work of Wikileaks ensuring information can reach a public audience.

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Senate to define who is a journalist?

Charlie Savage reports at The New York Times that Democratic Senators proposed legislation to legislatively define who is a “journalist.” Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) drafted an amendment, likely to the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2009″ (S. 448), that would apply the “media shield” to protect sources only to “traditional news-gathering activities and not to web sites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents.

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Broadcasting board decides Voice of America can peruse WikiLeak documents

Al Kamen reports that,

Some new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors were most upset by a column item last Wednesday noting that the IT and security folks at the International Broadcasting Bureau had instructed Voice of America employees to not read or e-mail any of the WikiLeaks material on their government computers (bit of a blow to original reporting).

The issue was apparently that the infrastructure component of the BBG, the International Broadcasting Bureau, or IBB, was dictating the rules of the game to VOA journalists. Fortunately, the brand new Board members authorized the Director of the VOA to “proceed with reporting on the disclosure of classified documents available on the WIkileaks website in a manner that is consistent with the VOA Charter and the BBG’s statutory mission, and to balance this effort with due consideration for the laws and executive orders” on using classified information.

Likely the IBB will take a more appropriate stance in the near future when Dick Lobo, the proposed new director, is confirmed.

See also Kim Elliott’s comments that RFE/RL, a surrogate station not under IBB, was able to report on Wikileaks without constraint.