While some of the companies that targeted Wikileaks were subject to direct political pressure from American politicians, others seem to have volunteered—a decision that must have been easy to make given all the Wikileaks-bashing in Congress. Wikileaks survived these betrayals; but the myth that today’s Internet is the best of all possible worlds didn’t.
That the Internet is heavily dominated by for-profit companies, and therefore subject to influence from governments, is not a ground-breaking discovery.... Until Cablegate, this situation, while theoretically problematic, was something that most geeks accepted as some kind of necessary evil inherent to capitalism. It seemed unlikely that Amazon or PayPal would bow down to pressure from the governments of Vietnam, Azerbaijan, or Tunisia... Likewise, it seemed unlikely that democratic governments would want to bully the intermediaries rather than pursue their grievances via the legal system.
What Wikileaks has revealed is that that it doesn’t take all that much pressure (or even controversy) to force Internet intermediaries to drop clients that are not on Hillary Clinton’s Christmas card mailing list. Thus, one way to ensure that the next Wikileaks is not mistreated by its business partners is to minimize the power of intermediaries and, preferably, make them immune to political and financial pressure. This objective, as much as the desire to boost transparency and reduce government secrecy, is what presently unites many of Assange’s technology-savvy supporters. And such geeky efforts to remake the Internet are likely to pay off in the long run even if Wikileaks’s transparency drive falters.