Amazon has pulled WikiLeaks off its cloud hosting infrastructure, bowing to political pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Guardian quotes Lieberman's statement: "[Amazon's] decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."
The department of homeland security confirmed Amazon's move, referring journalists to Lieberman's statement, notes The Guardian.
"I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with Wikileaks and what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information," Lieberman said, according to Reuters.
Ryan Calo, a lecturer at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society told Reuters that "It would set a dangerous precedent were companies like Amazon to take down things merely because the senator or another government entity started to ask question about them."
The New Yorker's Amy Davidson writes: "Lieberman may be exaggerating his own role, and Amazon can make choices about what business to be in. Still, is Amazon reporting to a senator now? Is the company going to tell him about “the extent of its relationship” with WikiLeaks—with any customer? He’s free to ask, of course, but in terms of an obligation to answer: Does somebody have a warrant or a subpoena for that? One wonders if Lieberman feels that he, or any Senator, can call in the company running The New Yorker’s printing presses when we are preparing a story that includes leaked classified material, and tell them to stop it. The circumstances are different, but not so different as to be really reassuring."
"This certainly implicates First Amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access," EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston told Talking Points Memo.
TPM reports that "Committee staff had seen news reports yesterday that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon's servers. The service, we should note, is self-serve; as with services like YouTube, the company does not screen or pre-approve the content posted on its servers. Staffers then, according to the spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, 'Are there plans to take the site down?' Amazon called them back this morning to say they had kicked Wikileaks off, Phillips said."
It does not appear that Amazon was served with a legal order to take WikiLeaks down, but rather that the decision was based on verbal criticism from Lieberman and other establishment members. The fact that a website can be taken down without any due process in a country which once had a vaunted tradition of free speech should be an alarm call to anyone who understands the importance of a free media.