The WikiLeaks phenomenon reviewed

From my review of two of the current wave of books about WikiLeaks.

Experience showed, however, that often mere revelation was not enough: the world yawned and turned away. Often the leaked material was complex and unintelligible to the lay browser. It needed expert interpretation – and corroboration. So gradually it dawned on Assange and his colleagues that the best way of making an impact on the world might be to collaborate with journalistic organisations, which could provide the interpretation and the checking needed to ensure that people believed what was being leaked. This is the value that the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel and the other media partners added to the vast troves of documents that Assange brought to them.

But if it turned out that WikiLeaks needed conventional journalism, it has also become clear that conventional journalism needs what WikiLeaks created, namely a secure technology for enabling people to upload confidential material that they believe should be in the public domain. So it's important that serious media organisations now build that kind of technology themselves, just in case WikiLeaks is overcome by the fragility of its finances, its managerial problems or the legal vulnerability of its founder. In a world increasingly dominated by secretive, unaccountable corporations and in which authoritarian regimes continue to flourish, we will need robust technologies for ensuring that some secrets cannot be kept…