Wikileaks, leaks and internet providers
Posted on February 26th, 2013
With the revelation this week of over 250,000 secret documents by the internet site Wikileaks, the subsequent attacks and later failure of their website, I wonder what the world is coming to when internet service providers start to judge the content of the sites that they host, as this appears to be the reason that Amazon dumped Wikileaks.
Is this another extension of political correctness or an expression of political pressure? There should be legislation that protects internet service providers from the obligation to submit to such pressure. Indeed, who was behind the 'denial of service attacks' on the server in question? Not the US government but a so-called patriotic hacker!
My intention here is not to judge whether Wikileaks was right or wrong to publish these cables, that it's not for internet service companies to intervene. Consider how many controversial sites there are among the millions of websites in the world.
No matter what your point of view and the subject, we should not be asking internet service companies to play policeman or judges, just as we should not be asking electricity companies to judge your use of electricity, mail companies the post your sending, or road management companies whether or not you're going in the right direction.
This issue has come up before. Yahoo was involved in a case where they were asked to divulge email account details, and there have been several cases of governments attempting to change legislation on access to emails, just as they have done on snail mail and telephone tapping.
Liberation (in French) says quite rightly in its article on ecrans.fr quoting Octave Klaba, director of OVH 'it is not for politicians to request or ask for the closure of an internet site but the law'. Even less so for internet service companies to do so.
One can easily imagine that governments would like to gag those who speak out against them. The case against China is just one in point. Freedom of speech remains a tenable goal, continually under debate, since what constitutes freedom of speech for one is the freedom of defence for another.
While the question remains whether the information revealed on WikiLeaks is life-threatening, or merely embarrassing, one can sympathise with those diplomats who find their 'secret' communications revealed and their right to privacy trampled. If, however, we consider that they are our representatives, this 'information' is of general interest and an opportunity to question the attitude of diplomats and the relations between our governments.
But how can we even judge the impact of these revelations based on sound-bytes, just as we are asked to judge the veracity of global financial statements based on limited knowledge?