Wikileaks influence and how it’s growing

Who says Wikileaks is on the back foot? In fact, the group remains supported by millions of citizens around the world for giving us the information our media and governments should be offering.

Interesting piece in Fairfax today by Philip Dorling on this very point:

A trenchant critic of the influence of corporations on political life around the world, [Julian] Assange has been enthusiastic in his support of the Occupy movement, recently observing that ”the politicisation of the youth connected to internet is the most significant thing that happened in the world since the 1960s. This is something new, a real revolution.”

The organisation has also expressed its support for the protests through its Twitter account, with Assange addressing protesters in Trafalgar Square in London on October 8.

What is not well known, and has gone unreported, is the key role that WikiLeaks supporters have played in igniting the surge of internet-based activism that has so far resulted in protests in reportedly more than 1000 cities in 82 countries.

Most accounts of the Occupy movement focus on the Canadian-based Adbusters Media Foundation’s proposal in July for a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest against corporate influence on democracy. Activists from the Anonymous hacktivist collective also encouraged followers to take part in the protest, calling on protesters to ”flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street”.

However, investigations of the pattern of internet activism over the past year indicate the origins of the Occupy movement are to be found earlier, in the wave of activity generated by WikiLeaks last year as it released US Army helicopter gunship footage from the war in Iraq, US military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq and more than 250,000 classified US State Department cables.

Twitter exchanges between WikiLeaks supporters in the US, Australia and elsewhere resulted in the establishment in November 2010 of a WikiLeaks news website – WL Central. Editors and contributors to WL Central included Canadian human rights activist Heather Marsh, New York internet activist Alexa O’Brien, well-known Melbourne-based ”Twitter journalist” Asher Wolf and another, Sydney-based Australian activist known by her Twitter account @Jlllow.

While WL Central focused on support for the transparency website, some of its contributors were more ambitious. By her own account, Marsh hoped to ”encourage and facilitate connection and communication for the revolution, both in Canada and around the world”; while O’Brien looked to ”push ”¦ the edge of social media for scalable organisation of civil disobedience and non-violent protest”.

In February, prompted by the WikiLeaks banking embargo, and inspired by the role of online activism in the Arab Spring, O’Brien established ”US Day of Rage”, a website to promote US protests along the lines of the mass movements that were overwhelming despotic political leaders in the Middle East. A US Day of Rage Twitter account was established on March 10. Four days later the account had 1077 followers and was reportedly growing at a rate of three followers every 10 minutes. On March 14, Marsh used the WL Central website to promote the new group’s cause.

”Americans are outraged because they realise that there is something terribly wrong with the way our nation is governed, and the way in which our public discourse is conducted,” she wrote.

”The nation’s institutions, meant to underpin the principles of our democratic republic, do not function effectively in the 21st century. Their failure leaves us prey to rampant corruption, unprincipled and abusive government action, and a demoralised populace.”

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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