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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wikileaks and Conspiracy Theories on the Internet

This article written by Ian Vella appeared on the Sunday Times Tech-Sunday 14 Aug 2010

Although the Internet has become a place for serious research and business, it is often an unpredictable and wild place. This is because the Internet is a free medium — a place where anyone can publish just about anything. There are hardly any restrictions on what can or cannot be published or leaked and subsequently viewed by the general public.

Take, for instance, the multitude of conspiracy theories that flourish on the Internet. Just Google “conspiracy theories”, and you are sure to come across thousands of them, many of which are incredibly absurd.  Elvis is still alive many would claim! JFK was assassinated by the Vatican, the US president is controlled by aliens and the music industry is planting subliminal messages in the minds of listeners.

  These are just a few of the most evident examples!
Others talk of secret medical examinations and experiments on unsuspecting patients by villainous doctors. Many of these conspiracy theories have become extremely popular simply because people like to read about them — there’s a kind of thrill that they get out of them.

The fact is that, most of these theories are quite ridiculous and most are evidently false however since WikiLeaks.com has been launched in January 2007 conspiracy theories took a somber turn of events.  Wikileaks is a website similar to wikipedia and wikitravel in concept, whereby the website itself is user edited and the content may be uploaded by anyone in the world.  The owners of wikileaks.com describe this website as a “Multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.  WikiLeaks endeavors to civilize private companies by exposing uncivil plans and behavior. Just like a country, a corrupt or unethical company is a menace to all inside and outside it.”  This means that someone can submit a theory and others continue building on it, either approving or disapproving it.  Most of time the editors request supporting documents before publishing any story.  Wikileaks is controlled by a non-profit Swedish organization and today counts in excess of 1.2 million documents on this website.