It’s the holiday season – and I want to spread as much good cheer as the next guy. Yet this WikiLeaks stuff is casting a pall over potential goodwill that is spreading like a metastasized cancer way beyond the US borders. According to Wikipedia, “WikiLeaks is an international new media non-profit organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous news sources and leaks… . In November 2010, Wikileaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables” resulting in diplomatic havoc and chaos – and potentially much worse. Its director is Julian Assange, of Australia.
Here are three thoughts. First thought, congrats to Paypal. Paypal has provided a conduit for WikiLeaks to receive much needed donations. Paypal announced this week that it would no longer allow WikiLeaks to use its services – thereby cutting off WikiLeaks from a significant source of its cash flow. Paypal has put itself – its business, its livelihood, right smack on the line. It is sending a loud and clear message to WikiLeaks and its supporters that its unacceptable behavior is exactly that. WikiLeaks is, according to PayPal, in violation of its “Acceptable Use Policy.” Seems that Paypal doesn’t want its service to be used for “any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activities.” Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks director, is saying that no one has died yet as a result of his actions. That’s quite a smoking gun you’re holding, Mr. Assange. Paypal has gotten it right. Your activities are indeed a threat.
Second thought. Noticably silent in all this is Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s Terms state that “You will not post content or take any actions on FaceBook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.” Mark Zuckerberg has an opportunity here. Yes, the WikiLeaks page on Facebook shows that WikiLeaks has almost 780,000 followers. That’s huge. Even so, that huge number pales when compared with the potential damage to human life that WikiLeaks is supporting. Facebook, by not shutting off the Wikileak’s page, is thereby an accomplice.
Third thought. We are After Fiftiers. The significant players in this drama may be young enough to be our children. Mark Zuckerberg is 26, Julian Assange is 39. Peter Thiel, of Paypal fame was 31 when he co-founded the company – he’s now 42. We need to ask ourselves: what did we do right as parents, and where could we have improved. Yes, Zuckerberg had a stroke of genius when he founded Facebook. But his current self-absorption and failure to take a stand on this issue is simply shameful. Assange, and his “no one has died yet” philosophy is similarly self-absorbed. His failure to see, to understand, the implications of his actions bespeak of a spoiled childhood. Peter Thiel, though, has managed to get it right. And so, a tip of my hat to his parents who we can assume encouraged young Peter to figure out the right course of action when confronted with a challenge. Peter learned his lesson well.