This is what we call the “Facebook Webshift.” (This post from July 2010). Just look at Bradley Manning the alleged WikiLeaks person and he could be just any “invincible” college undergrad- anywhere in the world with an average of 300+ Facebook friends- many whom he has not actually met or dealt with. Everyone trusts everyone as in Utopia to do the “right thing.”
Read the accompanying story and you understand the devastating actions that the Taliban would take against Afghan informants. Whoever leaked these documents did not read the Kite Runner and think of the potential consequences at the Afghan end, apart from the consequences for US forces.
And then there is the Shirely Sherrod matter. An edited video is put out by a blogger which goes viral and the public and the administration goes into over drive and literally makes Sherrod resign while she is driving via her blackberry. Yes the racism allegations were serious but there was no imminent threat to anyone’s life that required an immediate throwing of Shirley Sherrod to the wolves !
In these two examples, it is the webshift which is the escalator and not merely leaked classified documents or racism. It’s bad to leak sensitive documents but imagine the weight in paper if you had so many documents as in the Wikileaks. The Shirely Sherrod furore happened because the edited video could be seen much beyond TV and the public over-reaction could develop-overnight.
Organizations, both public and private need to start thinking about this escalating exponential impact of the web and develop systematic organizational processes to deal with the fallout.