I have mixed feelings about a lot of different aspects of this, but there are two key points. One is that the leaker here (presumably Bradley Manning, but that’s not yet been proven in a court of law) has broken the law and needs to be punished. The other is that the ability to republish leaked secrets is integral to the operation of a free press. Creating a new standard of harassing not leakers, but the publishers of leaks, is a very dangerous precedent whose implications go far beyond whatever you may think of the particular circumstances.I think this is actually pretty well understood. Nobody's proposed any new legislation. The Department of Justice hasn't unveiled any actual charges against Assange or Wikileaks. And while it's very unseemly to see a United States Senator throwing his weight around to get Amazon, Twitter, etc. to drop Wikileaks, at the same time he is not getting the same info pulled from the New York Times.
So everyone instead wants to make this a story about the person of Julian Assange, or the technology of the Internet. (Verbally) attacking Assange is fine, but mostly irrelevant.
And over on the technological side, it's amazing how few people get it. I understand that most of the people I listen to on NPR or whose words I read in the paper are over 50, and probably do not think about the internet as much as I do. But take Josh Marshall, a youngish guy whose whole enterprise is built on the web. He writes:
Let's say that the Wikileaks cables hadn't been State Department cables but rather the final tracks of Lady Gaga's next album or perhaps each episode of next season's Mad Men? How long do you think they would have stayed online?Say what? There's no difference. That content would have stayed online forever, as the wikileaks will. To miss this important point is to completely misunderstand the current state of the internet.
Wikileaks is alive and well. You can go there, you can donate to them if you so choose, and the "poison pill" insurance file is sitting on many servers around the world, waiting for you to pull it down to your hard drive.
So Joe Leiberman gets to look like a national-security tough guy by bullying Amazon. And it's distressing that Amazon, Twitter, Paypal, etc. have caved. But, in strictly technological terms, it doesn't matter.
"You can't stop the internet, bitches." -Monkey
Updated Monday @ 10:30. This from the Guardian
Attempts to railroad WikiLeaks off the net quickly failed. Removing its hosting servers has increased WikiLeaks' ability to stay online. More than 1,300 volunteer "mirror" sites, including the French newspaper Libération, have already surfaced to store the classified cables. Within days the WikiLeaks web content had spread across so many enclaves of the internet it was immune to attack by any single legal authority. In some respects, WikiLeaks has never been safer or as aggressively defended.