Talking to kids about WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is all over the news this week and kids are bound to ask about it.  My oldest daughter is 12, and she was interested enough to bring it up. The name is kinda fun to say for kids, as well as for news people who parrot it all over TV and radio.

The Wiki prefix is the hook that gets the most attention of kids.  First thing is to explain that WikiLeaks and Wikipedia are not the same thing.  Kids are very familiar with Wikipedia, and are bound to be confused.  Wikipedia is an open web based collaborative encyclopedia.  The term Wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning quick, that is used to describe user-edited web based resources.

WikiLeaks was founded as a website to release and share (to leak) confidential or proprietary documents that uncover unethical or corrupt behavior by governments and corporations.  It was at first user edited, but later moved away from the wiki format in order to uphold the integrity and quality of the documents filed.  It now uses a more traditional editorial approach to vetting and releasing documents.

WikiLeaks has won awards from The Economist and Amnesty International.  The ACLU, Electronic FrontierFoundation, and many news and professional journalist organizations have come to the defense of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is in the news for releasing 250,000 confidential cables sent by US government appointees and employees regarding international deals and diplomacy.

Discussion questions for older kids:

What is a wiki? What is the difference between Wikipedia and WikiLeaks?

What should government officials expect to keep secret from us?

Should it be a crime to reveal government cover-ups of actions that harmed people?

Is it right or wrong for a website or news organization to publish confidential information it encounters?

Who should decide to censor content located “in the cloud”, outside of legal jurisdiction? How could it be censored?

Does this latest WikiLeaks incident prove that information wants to flow and be free?

Is it ever wrong to reveal the truth?

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