Monday, June 29, 2009

Wikipedia Censorship

Execs "believed" accurate info might hurt, according to a New York Times piece, "For seven months, The NYT managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban." Wikipedia, with an allegedly democratic model, was a "difficult" place to suppress important news, according to the article, which wistfully describes how lying to the public "usually meant just a phone call from one editor to another".

Successfully misled that Wikipedia was open, volunteers tried again and again to update the information; only to have it deleted with more lies and deception. The deceivers' good intentions are not at issue, only their choice of focus on potential loss. For example: What risks were taken by these volunteers to provide accurate updates on the Taliban? This may never be known, because Wikipedia admins decided to freeze the page from editing to protect the falsehoods and suppression. How many people suffered to bring the truth to light? We may never know who is killed or tortured, or whose children suffer because the Times and Wikipedia decision. The cynical answer would be "No one who matters."

Perhaps accurate information would raise the ransom demand and perhaps not. Perhaps it would have enabled a rescue or release, and perhaps not. But when we let fear of the action of the ignorant lead us to lie and subvert democracy, (in this case: without evidence), we are following a well established path to despotism. Freedom of the press is the 1st Amendment because without access to reliable information, sound decisions are impossible.

When rich and powerful corporations work to deceive the poor and desperate, it seems particularly offensive.

Also, we should remember that believing in freedom of expression means we support the expression of opinions and ideas that oppose our interests. Any despot, (e.g.: Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-il, etc.) favors freedom of expression that supports them. If we cannot support expression of those that undermine or attempt to undermine our stance, claims of believing in this right are worthless.

Was suppression of the facts proper in NYT incident; What do you think?

No comments: