Clay Shirky absolutely nails it regarding WikiLeaks. Read the whole thing, but some choice excerpts (emphasis mine):
I am conflicted about the right balance between the visibility required for counter-democracy and the need for private speech among international actors. Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want.
The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”
What's been bothering me is that the current story seems to be following an arc where "if we just get this one guy, knock down this one website, everything will be back to normal." Leak plugged, problem solved. Of course this is stupid, and completely misses the point. The point is that information travels far too freely now to be kept secret for very long. This will happen again. And again.
It's the same attitude the TSA seems to take. Shoe bomb? Okay, no shoes. Problem solved. Liquids? Crap. Okay, no liquids! Underwear bomb?! Backscatter! It's reactive and it completely misses the point, too.
So our reaction to WikiLeaks will probably be like that: We'll tighten everything down, pass over-reaching laws that make it even harder to get the real story on what our government is doing in our name, and treat the whole world (including our own citizens) as criminals before they've done anything, all in the name of preventing another insert-tragedy-or-outrage-here.
Assange's personal story is also a distraction, and the mainstream media (which has benefited enormously from WikiLeaks' work) is eating it up. The most interesting question about him is not his personal life but his motive: Is he trying to make the U.S. government more transparent (good), or is he trying to bring it down (bad)?
In related news, Facebook (I know!) seems to stand largely alone in publicly and plainly saying that they're not taking the WikiLeaks page down. Andrew Noyes, Facebook's Manager of Public Policy Communications tells ReadWriteWeb:
The Wikileaks Facebook Page does not violate our content standards nor have we encountered any material posted on the page that violates our policies.
Too bad our government doesn't take its own policies (otherwise known as laws) so seriously.