A vibrant civil society can challenge those in power by documenting corruption or uncovering activities like the murder of political enemies. In democracies, this function is mostly performed by the media, NGOs or opposition parties.
A lot of the geeks in Silicon Valley will tell you they no longer believe in the ability of policymakers in Washington to accomplish anything. They don't understand why people end up in politics; they would do much more good for the world if they worked at Google or Facebook.
The idea that the Internet favors the oppressed rather than the oppressor is marred by what I call cyber-utopianism: a naive belief in the emancipatory nature of online communication that rests on a stubborn refusal to admit its downside.
We've never thought too deeply about the roles things like forgetting or partisanship or inefficiency or ambiguity or hypocrisy play in our political or social life. It's been impossible to get rid of them, so we took them for granted, and we kind of thought, naively, that they're always the enemy.
One possible future for WikiLeaks is to morph into a gigantic media intermediary - perhaps, even something of a clearing house for investigative reporting - where even low-level leaks would be matched with the appropriate journalists to pursue and report on them and, perhaps, even with appropriate NGOs to advocate on their causes.
Why does crime happen? Well, you might say that it's because youths don't have jobs. Or you might say that's because the doors of our buildings are not fortified enough. Given some limited funds to spend, you can either create yet another national employment program or you can equip houses with even better cameras, sensors, and locks.