Reminder: What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet
Today's front page features a story by me and Joby Warrick about the persistence of WikiLeaks. If you don't have time to read it, the short version of it appears in the headline above.
That should not be a new lesson to those in the entertainment industry who have tried to scrub the Net of copies of songs, TV shows and movies distributed without permission. But people seem compelled to learn it anew in every new industry and every few months.
It's even more true in the case of WikiLeaks. I doubt people feel a moral imperative to share a new Hollywood release, but many Web users do when government documents are involved (even if a lot of them don't show any evidence of wrongdoing). You can knock a site offline for at least a few hours or days, but there's no magic virus you can upload that will erase the data it distributed--or even stop it from resurfacing at a new host.
We can't even get rid of spam and malware sites, and nobody--at least, no sane and well-adjusted individual--will testify to their usefulness.
As an aside: My biggest contribution to today's story consisted of e-mailing a few Internet experts for a quote or two about the odds of booting WikiLeaks from the Internet. That's a normal part of reporting any story on a technical topic, but when it comes to the online world you don't have to find a historian or a researcher; you can ask somebody who helped invent the whole thing. (The piece quotes Vint Cerf, co-author of the Net's TCP/IP language, and Paul Vixie, who wrote some of its standard-setting documents and networking applications.) It's a privilege, journalistically speaking, to be around at this time.
| December 9, 2010; 9:09 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture, Policy and politics
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