Amazon: why we dumped WikiLeaks

First of all, here’s the company’s explanation.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.

Analysis:

1. Amazon asserts that WikiLeaks didn’t own the content it was publishing.

2. Amazon asserts that its T&Cs require one to “warrant that … use of the content you supply … will not cause injury to any person or entity.” The company then goes on to state it is “not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy”.

I don’t have a problem with 1, which seems perfectly factual. By definition, WikiLeaks didn’t own the content of the cables. I’m no constitutional lawyer, but Claim #2 seems much more problematic. Amazon merely asserts that something is “not credible” and on the basis of that restricts WikiLeaks’s freedom of speech. On what grounds may a commercial company make a decision like that, in the US?

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