WIKILEAKS FOUNDER Julian Assange has said that the Internet is an obstacle to free speech.
He was speaking to students at Cambridge University in the UK, where he said that the Internet is "the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen", according to The Economic Times of India.
"It is not a technology that favours freedom of speech," he said. "It is not a technology that favours human rights. Rather it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen."
He cited an example of a small Facebook revolt in Cairo several years ago, where he said Facebook was later used to find the protesters and then torture and imprison them. He claimed that Wikileaks had helped trigger later events that led to the toppling of the Egyptian and Tunisian governments.
The comments appear somewhat contradictory with how many others view the Internet as one of the few remaining places where freedom of speech reigns supreme. Even the fact that Wikileaks was able to use it to leak thousands of documents and cables, rather than sending select pieces to the media, shows how it has been used to embarrass, and in a couple of cases, topple governments.
Assange mentioned the impact that Wikileaks recently had on the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.
He said, "The Tunisian cables showed clearly that if it came down to it, the U.S., if it came down to a fight between the military on the one hand, and (President Zine al-Abidine) Ben Ali's political regime on the other, the U.S. would probably support the military," according to Reuters.
"That is something that must have also caused neighboring countries to Tunisia some thought. That is that if they militarily intervened, they may not be on the same side as the United States," he concluded.
Assange also confirmed that Wikileaks has worked to provide timely information to other Arab revolutionary movements in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, "as fast as we could," he said.
Without the Internet we might never have even heard of Assange, but he has a point in that the Internet both offers everyone the ability to publish and can enable governments to identify users. µ