The WikiLeaks phenomenon has certainly appeared in the news many times over the last decade for a whole range of different reasons. The site now claims to host more than one million documents and a number of these have had many months of coverage. In this essay I will be taking a look at the effects felt from ethical, legal and social viewpoints.
The WikiLeaks website says that it accepts "classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance" but does not take "rumour, opinion or other kinds of first hand reporting or material that is already publicly available". But what are the ethical repercussions of whistle blowing on such a large scale?
Although there are accepted general concepts like privacy, anonymity and freedom of speech, for every new kind of phenomena we have to discuss its ethical aspects (Kizza, 2010)( Nadler and Schulman, 2006). I am going to look at three different approaches to ethics and apply them to the WikiLeaks phenomenon.
The Utilitarian Approach is focusing on how WikiLeaks affects the well-being, directly or indirectly, of various parties. On the one hand, the uncovering of misconduct and increasing the transparency of closed government doors are incredibly beneficial to society as a whole. It can often help make government decision much clear and alleviate public opinion. However it can also cause harm. Due the action of whistle blowing individuals or society can be exposed and put at risk and repercussions can include security measures such as censorship and technical restrictions actually providing the general public with less freedom.
An example of this is video foot WikiLeaks brought to light of a military operation in July 2007...
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...rethics, and Social Networking,” in Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age. London: Springer London, ch. 11 221, pp. 221–246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84996-038-0_11
Nadler J. and Schulman M. (2006) “Whistle Blowing in the Public Sector,” November http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/Government_ethics/introduction/whistleblowing.html
Chris McGreal (2007), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/05/wikileaks-us-army-iraq-attack
Dunbar R. (1998), Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, Harvard Univ. Press
Y.Benkler (2011), Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate
Joshua Keating, 2013, Why the Snowden Leaks Will Have a Bigger Impact Than WikiLeaks, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/10/24/reports_of_nsa_spying_on_france_and_germany_why_the_snowden_leaks_will_have.html
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