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17 Mar 2015

Méxicoleaks: Ideas are the most powerful leaks

Daniel Carranza



Leer en español.

 

Méxicoleaks was launched a few days ago, a platform that allows people from all walks to leak documents to the press to help investigate crimes of all kinds such as corruption, misappropriation, crimes against the environment, etc.

The notion of informants or “whistleblowers” is widely known and earned a strong push in the Internet era, not only as a concept and potential, but as facts, thanks to WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange. The episode in which the video “Collateral Murder” and the diplomatic cables were leaked by Chelsea Manning was a giant jolt that demonstrated the value (or threat, depending on where you stand) of the role of the whistleblower. And it was not long before another episode – which did not involve Wikileaks – put an informant in the center of the world’s attention. I speak of Edward Snowden and his revelations about spying systems mounted by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States.

All these episodes have been surrounded by controversy and Méxicoleaks has been no exception, though unfortunately, much of the scandal responds to reasons that have nothing to do with a leak. The issue has been widely covered by the press so we will not go into it, but we do recommend further reading (in Spanish). In the discussion that has occurred around each of these cases, two sides (extremely generalized, with due apologies) are confronted: for extreme transparency or for justified secrecy. The first justifying not only the idea but also actions that may formally be illegal and calling for the adaptation and modernization of the legal system, the latter trying to contain – mainly through courts – the existence of such tools.

But the side of secrecy has already lost the war, even if it wins a few battles. Ideas are contagious, like a virus. Such is, in a nutshell, the concept behind the meme (which is not a joke on the web, but a theoretical unit of cultural information that is communicable from one individual to another). The internet is a powerful breeding ground for idea germs of all kinds. The video below develops this concept, from a different dimension (how ideas are discussed and confronted), but just as illustrative.

Portals to obtain leaks and protect informants are here to stay. Wikileaks may fall someday… sorry, or should I say… has already fallen and been brought down by force many times, and the information was not only backed up in a decentralized manner, but it accelerated a reproduction process by which it ended in many instances of Wikileaks distributed around the world. Conflicts in the Wikileaks team itself also ended up strengthening the idea, when a a separate working group emerged to form GlobaLeaks. This is in fact the platform on which Méxicoleaks created. And so the story continues…

What role or position may governments take in these instances? Resistance seems to be the norm for now. It is understandable, especially in countries with a strong culture of secrecy, and its obvious that resistance will surface from areas where there is corruption and see this as a threat to the status quo.

However there are other ways. Some countries firmly strengthen the regulatory framework for the protection of informants and embrace this idea as their own. They turn the “enemy” into an ally, and the state itself can receive and investigate information leaks, rather than leave that role to the press and take action only after a media scandal. In the long run, I have no doubt this will be the predominating way. Not so much for an infinite trust in humanity, but because powerful ideas – as we said –  are able to mutate and infect even the most resistant organization.

 

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