Julian Assange visited Melbourne Australia last week and was greeted by having his passport seized, told that it will be canceled and questioned about hacking crimes he committed as a teen. According to The Times Online, the authorities took his passport for a period of time and when they returned it to him, he was informed that it would be canceled because it is "looking worn". They also brought up his past computer criminal record - hacking Telco's and US Military computers as a teenager, for which he had already been tried, convicted and sentenced.
(Cross-posted at The National Gadfly)
Last year, Wikileaks posted information about the Australian government's then secret Internet blacklist, supposedly designed to prevent child pornography but which contained many sites having nothing to do with kiddie porn. The great public outcry against the China-like plan to filter and block Internet content has made Mr. Assange persona non grata in many Australian government official's views. Shortly afterward, the Australian government made certain to add Wikileaks to that very same blacklist.
Recently, Wikileaks made a big splash by releasing footage from a US attack helicopter showing the murder of journalists, and a civilian trying to save lives by that same helicopter. The site has also angered the Swiss government and banking industry as well as the banks of The Caymans by publishing details of taxation avoidance perpetrated by banks and US citizens.
Julian Assange travels countries every six weeks, maintains anonymity and hides his location, running Wikileaks from his laptop - all because he runs a website that shares information. Having his location broadcast and limited is a threat to his physical safety. The message from Australia is simple and clear:
We know who you are and where you are. Keep your mouth shut.
Information has always been power. Never has this been more true than now in this digital age. In fights, wars, battles, conflicts and competitions - opponents vie for the information that will allow them to defeat their enemies. In this information age, data...knowledge...ideas are not only information, but they are the living, breathing currency of our social structure. In every scenario, whoever can gain, hoard and control information will be the person or group with power.
On one side, there are organizations like "big media" (newspapers, TV & radio networks and magazines), the carriers like telecommunication companies and official governments. These entities are all the status quo. They make and spend enormous sums of money, all gathered from the public and they all seek to maintain their status by the strict control of information. And they all tell us that this is for the public good. It is no coincidence that they oppose Wikileaks and Net Neutrality.
On the other side, blogs and websites like Wikileaks are doing what muckraking journalists of the old Fourth Estate model used to do - give voice to vast majority of us, who have neither muscle or capital, nor the advantages of being in the staus quo.
If you care about your freedom, please help support Wikileaks and write to your representatives, newspapers and regulatory agencies demanding Net Neutrality.
We've already had a Dark Ages. We do not need another.