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Wikileaks founder in hiding

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday June 18, 2010 )

Running a web site can be hazardous to your health – and I’m not just talking about posture, nicotine or caffeine related issues. The Australian founder of whistleblower site Wikileaks is fearing for his life.

Australia’s ABC reports that Julian Assange has gone into hiding after rumors circulated saying that he is in possession of hundreds of thousands of classified government communications containing damaging revelations.

Wikileaks hit the headlines earlier this year when it released classified US military video showing a US helicopter crew mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher before mowing down group of people in Iraq.

However, Mr Assange denies Wikileaks has the classified US department cables.

It’s like something straight out of an X-Files episode – “The Lone Gunmen” sort of stuff.

Mr Assange’s situation is rather extreme, but it’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard of web site owners living in fear as a result of their online activities.

I remember the case of a local blogger who covers far less controversial topics being stalked by a disgruntled reader. The blogger in question isn’t exactly a “shock jock” sort of character either. He’s reasonable, balanced and certainly not aggressive.

In another instance, a popular female blogger was threatened in a most menacing way, to the point that she feared for her life also and the police needed to be involved.

I’ve had my share of nutters too over the years and I’ve found the best way to deal with them is to ignore, don’t engage. You just don’t know who or what you’re dealing with. The semi-illiterate person who insults you in a child-like way over something you have published might also be a steroid-pumped gun loving redneck on the edge; looking for an excuse to lash out in a more physical way.

Wherever possible, just wrinkle your nose at whatever dribble has been said, delete the comment if it’s a public posting – and just move on.

If you’re just starting out in blogging or running a web site that sometimes publishes material on sensitive or controversial topics, personal security is just something to keep in mind and again an example that “freedom of speech” also comes with a heavy burden.

Keep yourselves safe.


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