Amazon Stops Hosting Wikileaks: Gov't Censorship?

Joe Lieberman's office leaned on Amazon to drop Wikileaks

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Amazon.com has pulled its hosting for Wikileaks.org in the wake of requests by staffers for Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security committee, applauded Amazon's move. It's unclear whether the Lieberman staffers were acting as official representatives of the U.S. government or simply on behalf of one influential senator. It's also unclear whether the Department of Homeland Security played a role or Lieberman's office acted on its own.

  • Reason to Suspect This Was Official U.S. Request  Blogger Marcy Wheeler writes, "It is worth noting that Amazon.com presumably gets requests for 'tangible things' from the government under the PATRIOT Act’s Section 215. And while the Obama Administration has not branded Julian Assange as a terrorist the way [Rep. Peter King] has, they could presumably claim a counter-intelligence interest in obtaining records about Wikileaks under Section 215. So the government could make legitimate requests for information on Wikileaks’ hosting use, if not request it be closed down."
  • Clearly This Is Censorship  TechDirt's Mike Masnick writes, "it appears that the government is resorting to more traditional censorship methods: pressuring companies to silence Wikileaks." He says Lieberman "flat out called for censoring Wikileaks and then applauded Amazon for following through. ... Anyone have a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that they can send to Lieberman? Or is that not allowed these days?"
  • Political Backlash Against Amazon Unlikely  The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill calls this a "first blow" by the U.S. against Wikileaks. "While freedom of speech is a sensitive issue in the US, scope for a full-blown row is limited, given that Democrats and Republicans will largely applaud Amazon's move. ... Although there are echoes of the censorship row between Google and China earlier this year, constitutional lawyers insisted it was not a first amendment issue because Amazon is a private company, free to make its own decisions."
  • 'Pointless' Move by Lieberman  All Things Digital's Arik Hesseldahl sighs, "In the end, does it make a difference? Because once something is released on so massive a scale, you might as well order an errant glob of toothpaste back into the tube, as try to intimidate or legislate it out of existence." He points out that a number of Amazon-hosted media companies, not to mention the Amazon Kindle, all carry those same Wikileaks documents, and have not been pulled down.
  • Fighting Leaks is Futile  The Economist's Will Wilkinson writes, "With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personnel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night. Yet the debate over WikiLeaks has proceeded as if the matter might conclude with the eradication of these kinds of data dumps — as if this is a temporary glitch in the system that can be fixed; as if this is a nuisance that can be made to go away with the application of sufficient government gusto."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.