WikiLeaks “Hacktivists” on a Mission for Transparency

An article published Wednesday, Dec. 8, by FoxNews.com addressed attacks toward companies trying to censor information published on WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is allegedly in the midst of a campaign called “Operation: Payback.”

The article says MasterCard was the most recently attacked website by so-called “hacktivists” in support of “anti-censorship.” The next victim was Twitter. Allegedly, the “hacktivists” temporarily shut down MasterCard’s website.

“MasterCard was the first to experience issues,” the article said. “The site remains disabled following attacks, though the company would not confirm to the Associated Press whether WikiLeaks was involved. Spokesman James Issokson said MasterCard was trying to restore service Wednesday [Dec. 8] but was not sure how long that would take.”

So the obvious questions arise: What did these sites do to deserve becoming the prey of extremely damaging Internet activism? How does a site powered by random individuals have enough power to bring down big websites like Twitter?

According to FoxNews.com, MasterCard completely severed all ties with WikiLeaks for reasons not stated, while Twitter tried to censor a recent #wikileaks discussion.

The bottom line is, the connection between WikiLeaks supporters and these websites no longer exists. WikiLeaks is making the first move in the battle for “anti-censorship,” and “hacktivists” are proving that the Internet only gives them more power. Supporters are making it a point to show the Internet and the public that classified information is always attainable.

FoxNews.com spoke to Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor of Sophos security firm, about the issue.

“This is the first time we’re seeing mass civil unrest on the Internet,” Wisniewski said. “We haven’t really seen a public uprising like this before. And it’s a surprise to a lot of the public that the Internet is that fragile, that individual people can have an impact like that.”

Transparency, Transparency, Transparency. WikiLeaks’s mission is “dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. Provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists. Publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices.”

WikiLeaks seems like a dream come true for journalists, but what about public relations professionals? A public relations practitioner’s goal, though always striving for transparency, is to create long-term relationships with shareholders, consumers, other businesses and other publics and to generate a positive image.

With websites like WikiLeaks, advantages and disadvantages arise. The same is true with any and all confidential information available at the click of a button. This topic is nothing new, but because WikiLeaks now provides the public with a new level of access to confidential information, it’s important for any public relations professional to keep these things in mind:

Advantages:

1. The free-flow of information on the Internet provides instant transparency.

2. The Internet holds public relations practitioners, and other professionals accountable.

3. Online media outlets provide the public with timely information.

4. The public can stay constantly informed and up-to-date.

5. The Internet allows for the consumer’s voice to be heard at all times.

6. The Internet is an easy and economical resource for communicating to a key public.

Disadvantages:

1. There is no company privacy. Everything is searchable and traceable.

2. Every move you make is under a magnifying glass.

3. It is vital to constantly update information related your organization.

4. The number of outlets that require regulating is exponential, and can be discouraging.

5. The Internet has the potential to easily damage your client/organization’s reputation.

These advantages and disadvantages are only a handful out of many that can help or hinder a public relations practitioner. We’ve seen firsthand from the WikiLeaks example what the public is capable of. The sayings, “the customer is always right,” and “give the customer what they want,” ring true now more than ever.

By Laura Rabushka

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1 Comment

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One response to “WikiLeaks “Hacktivists” on a Mission for Transparency

  1. griffithinsider

    I’m writing a thesis on Public Trust in WikiLeaks, the Media and the Government and need to know what your opinions are. The online survey is multiple choice and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Please follow the link: http://www.kwiksurveys.com/?s=ILLLML_9669e09d. Would be great if you would encourage others to do the survey also.

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