State Department Touts 'World Press Freedom Day,' Internet Calls Irony

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With the U.S. battling Wikileaks to keep its diplomatic cable stash out of sight, you have to feel for the State Department public outreach office who was charged with sending out the press release touting "World Press Freedom Day 2011" today. It began:

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press. The theme for next year's commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.

Twitter wits (and BoingBoing commenters) fell over each other to poke fun at the release and what they consider the obvious Orwellian undertones of the event in light of the Wikileaks affair.

But all that occurred outside the State Department's official Internet presence. That changed when the press release got posted to the site's Facebook page. Now, almost 130 comments have been posted on the press release. Just about all of them have the tone Todd Sellers' did, "What is this opposite day? Freedom of the press in the US is collapsing."

It's all a little reminiscent of what happened to the magazine Cooks Source, which was found to be ripping off Internet stories. The publication's Facebook page became a hotbed of anti-Cooks Source comments, eventually pushing it out of business. Gawker memorialized the event with a headline that read, "The Internet Has Killed Cooks Source."

The State Department won't go down so easily, but I guarantee that won't stop Wikileaks supporters from trying.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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