Monday, December 13, 2010

21st Century Sit-Ins

I guess there is no point in trying hard to avoid writing on the topic of WikiLeaks and its associated controversies.  I can't seem to stop myself from composing things on the subject, so I might as well publish my thoughts here.

WikiLeaks has not broken the law. Just as the New York Times did not break the law when it published the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Journalists can publish secrets if they get them and that is protected under the Constitution.

MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal all stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks. Given that WikiLeaks had not been found guilty of breaking the law, there was no legal self-protection to cite as a reason for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks.

So why discriminate against WikiLeaks or people who want to donate to WikiLeaks? Maybe those companies were motivated by moral or ethical reasons. Well if that's the case I can't help but wonder what the standards are since MasterCard and Visa process payments to all sorts of organizations that most people would find morally repugnant, like white supremacists.

So in what way can people make their anger at these companies known? Protest. Which is what happened, a massive and organized protest in the form of a 21st century sit-in. Not unlike the protests at Woolworth's during the civil rights battles of the 60s, the virtual counter space would be taken up, preventing regular business. 

Does that make Anonymous right? Does that mean that anytime a few people get upset with some company that they ought to DDoS attack that company's presence on the Internet?  No and no.  But it is worth noting that this sort of thing on this kind of scale doesn't happen very often and in this case it is all over.  The protesters made their point and faded away into the anonymity of the Internet.

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