WikiLeaks is an international, online, self-proclaimed not-for-profit organisation that publishes submissions of undisclosed and secret information, news leaks, and highly classified media from anonymous sources and whistleblowers. •
The head of the online organisation, which was founded in 2006, is Australian born, Julian Assange. •
Its purpose is to provide whistleblowers with a domain to publish their case to the public and preserve their identity (Lennon 2010). •
Exposes various government and privately owned organisations. •
First major act of exposure was the publication of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's emails by WikiLeaks (DeFraia 2012). •
Another act of exposure released on its website showed a US military helicopter firing at a group of enemy suspects, which were in fact Iraqi civilians including children (DeFraia 2012). •
Since the release of this video, WikiLeaks has publicly aired millions of confidential publications (WikiLeaks 2012). •
WikiLeaks publishes war logs from Iraq: 400,000 confidential US documents on the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009 (DeFraia 2012). •
Interpol put Julian Assange on most-wanted list. Suspected of rape. As a result, Paypal cuts off WikiLeaks from using its services, thus ceasing donations (DeFraia 2012). DECISION MAKER:
A decision maker by definition is someone who administers a business (Farlex 2012). In the case of WikiLeaks, according to the definition, this would be Julian Assange as he is the head of the WikiLeaks organisation. Ultimately it is Assange’s decision to release classified information to the general public through his website.
ETHICAL ISSUES AND ASSUMPTIONS:
The assumption that can be made in this case is that Julian Assange was always aiming to smear the reputation of certain organisations and expose classified information. His WikiLeaks website provided him with the medium to do this as it allowed people wanting to expose classified information to do so as an anonymous source.
The controversy surrounding the WikiLeaks case, and discussion by the general public, centres on whether it is ethical to release private and confidential information to society. This is the main issue that the organisations that are being exposed are arguing as it is damaging to their reputation. Another issue is that from the perspective of the organisations that are hiding this confidential information. Should they be ethically bound to release all information that may affect the general public to society? In reality, WikiLeaks is acting unethically by invading people’s privacy in order to expose them, and is it really to the benefit of society? However, they argue that what they do is public disclosure whistleblowing, and they argue that the public has a right to know what its government is doing (Cox 2010).
The ethical dilemma in this case is found to be:
To release classified information to the general public
Not to release classified information to the general public
These two dilemmas have undesirable outcomes for the decision maker and all parties concerned. Releasing the information to the general public will cause continued criticism of WikiLeaks plus create a backlash for the organisations involved. To not release classified information to the general public could see organisations continue to get away with unethical acts.
There are numerous parties who are directly and indirectly affected by both considered actions. These groups are: •
Informants releasing information to WikiLeaks (Whistleblowers) •
Employees of targeted companies/organisations
From a utilitarian framework point of view all of the above mentioned stakeholders need to be analysed on how the ethical dilemma will affect each of them. There will be positive and negative consequences for each of the parties, be it in the long term...
References: Cox, T 2010, ‘Is WikiLeaks brave or unethical?’, National Public Radio, 10 November 2010, viewed 21 September 2012. < http://www.npr.org/2010/11/30/131699467/is-wikileaks-release-brave-or-unethical>
DeFraia, D 2012, ‘WikiLeaks Timeline: key moments’, Global Post, 16 August 2012, viewed 21 September 2012.
Farlex Inc 2012, Princeton University USA, viewed 22 September 2012.
Lennon, R 2010, ‘Case Study of the WikiLeaks Whistleblower’, Dublin City University, viewed 21 September 2012. < http://www.ruairi.info/ethics.pdf>
WikiLeaks 2012, no source recorded, viewed 21 September 2012. < http://wikileaks.org/>
Please join StudyMode to read the full document