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PdFLeaks II Preview: Like It Or Not, WikiLeaks and Anonymous are Here

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 24 2011

WikiLeaks and Anonymous are harbingers of a future where networked individuals who know no particular allegiance to any country have the power to disrupt business as usual, thanks to the Internet, decentralization, and powerful encryption technologies. What you might call the "old" notions of "citizen activism" and "citizen journalism" have to be expanded or rethought, because now there are kinds of activism and journalism that don't appear to be subservient to the laws and customs of any state. Citizenship, wherever you may hold it, comes with boundaries. Right now, it appears that both WikiLeaks and Anonymous have found ways to stretch, if not completely break, those limits.

That's what I'm hoping to discuss tonight at the second PdF Symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom. (You can watch live at that link.) We're going to start with what you might think of as "two reports from the future."

The first, from Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, will cover her involvement with WikiLeaks (which ended last fall), her work on the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (which seeks to make the country into a kind of anti-censorship haven, in the same way that the Cayman Islands are a tax haven), and her current battle with the U.S. Justice Department over her private Twitter records.

Then we'll hear from NYU Professor Gabriella Coleman, who will share her expertise on Anonymous, the amorphous neo-collective of online activists who jumped into action in support of WikiLeaks in December, downing several major corporate websites, and more recently took action against the government of Tunisia when the Ben-Ali regime tried to block local access to social media sites.

After their presentations, we'll turn to comments from Clay Shirky, who will talk about the globalization of journalism (which he wrote about recently here).

Finally, veteran journalist John Hockenberry and longtime First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams will round out the panel. They're batting clean-up in order to help put things in perspective. After which, we'll turn to the audience, and let the conversation flow where it wants to go.