Amazon.com’s Excuse: WikiLeaks ‘Harming People’

Spokesman Insists Ousting Site Was Ideologically Motivated, Not Cowardice

by Jason Ditz, December 02, 2010

Faced with growing condemnations over their decision yesterday to shut down WikiLeaks’ website Amazon.com finally offered a defense today, insisting that despite claims to the contrary Sen. Lieberman’s (I – CT) threats played no role in the decision to silence the whistleblower.

Amazon Spokesman Drew Herdener insisted that the move came because they felt WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing violated a Terms of Service ban on content that might “cause injury to any person or entity.” Herdener’s statement insisted WikiLeaks couldn’t possibly have redacted its documents in such a way to ensure that they wouldn’t hurt anybody.

Which seems an odd claim, as Amazon had apparently been hosting WikiLeaks for quite some time and hadn’t removed them during previous links, only doing so a few hours after Sen. Lieberman’s office called and demanded they remove the content on the grounds that it was embarrassing to the US government.

Herdener’s secondary claim, that WikiLeaks “doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content” is likewise misleading, as the US government, the creator of the content, is explicitly forbidden from copyrighting any of its content. Intellectual property claims cannot possibly be a justifcation.

Rather it seems the claims, mixed with the allegation that WikiLeaks is “putting innocent people in jeopardy,” suggests Amazon.com is trying to portray its move subtly as a political decision to support US government secrecy instead of the overt cowardice that Sen. Lieberman’s statement suggested it was.

Which is unlikely to placate anyone. Amazon.com was already facing a growing call for boycotts (including from Antiwar.com) on the basis of giving in to the Senator’s demands, and suggesting it was just a happy coincidence that they and Sen. Lieberman see eye-to-eye on the issue of silencing the dissident website is probably even worse from this perspective.

Though Amazon.com’s Terms of Service do give them the right to ban anyone they want, essentially for any reason, the decision to do so apparently without any contact to WikiLeaks, rendering the website unusuable for much of Wednesday morning while they transitioned to a new, less Liebermanesque host, was extremely unprofessional, and made a lot of enemies the e-commerce site probably didn’t need.

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