metaprogramming and politics

Decentralize. Take the red pill.

Who needs censorship if you have Amazon and everydns?

with 13 comments

Yesterday Amazon stopped services for the wikileaks archive. Citing from the Amazon statement:

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.

So here you have a popular cloud services provider judging their customers content in a broad manner, stating conclusion, terminate services, done. Did they allow discussion? Do journalists need to keep and control all rights of the material they are publishing? Can Amazon show any evidenceof their “jeopardy” conclusion? Would they apply the same moral standard to e.g. blogs or other (journalistic) content that called for going to the war on Iraq – causing >100.000 civilians to die? Does Amazon really want us to believe the US governments outrage and Mr. Liebermanns actions are merely a co-incidence?

Then today everydns.net terminated DNS services for wikileaks.org with a 24 hour prior notice. Citing from the everydns statement:

More specifically, the services were terminated for violation of the provision which states that “Member shall not interfere with another Member’s use and enjoyment of the Service or another entity’s use and enjoyment of similar services.”

So supposedly there was an attack on their DNS servers and they interpreted this as wikileaks doing harm to others? Is this the future of how we handle attacks against single domain names? Would the same happen if it was the site of a chinese dissident or a Poker playing site or any other customer?

As things stand this puts me off these two companies and brings me again to the thought that we need an internet that is as independent from any single company or any single country as possible - it’s in the best interest for all of us in the long run.

Written by holger krekel

December 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Posted in politics

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13 Responses

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  1. I’ve been thinking about the usefulness of my Please Pirate project (http://pleasepirate.org) to Wikileaks current woes. Also seems like it might be a way to reduce their dependence on the mainstream media for distribution.

    Not really many “users” yet, alas… I spoke on it at Pycon last year, fwiw. Thoughts?

    Pete

    December 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    • i think i saw your lightning talk, liked it :) Somehow i like the pre-1989 world where content is in the public domain unless otherwise stated. It’s true and a pity that copyright can be used as a weapon against anything these days — in germany the government sacked magazines last year re-printing old newspapers (from 1933) with comments from historians and guess what they used … They used their copyright on Goebbels (which they held for obscure reasons) to sack the magazines within a day.

      holger krekel

      December 3, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  2. Another interesting twist: Amazon claims they dropped Wikileaks b/c they didn’t own the data they published. Problem with that is, in the US, government documents aren’t copyrightable.

    Pete

    December 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm

  3. I find the censorship of wikileaks very troubling and it makes me sad and fearful for tommorow’s Internet. Sigh. Thankfully the Swiss companies are standing their ground.

    Kumar McMillan

    December 3, 2010 at 7:40 pm

  4. One thing you’re forgetting: These are private companies, not government agencies. So this is not “censorship”. This is private businesses deciding they don’t want a customer. Wikileaks can go to another provider of these services. The market is deciding they don’t want the PR nightmare that comes with dealing with these guys.

    As to EveryDNS, their statement also says: “These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites.” If I was running a business that provided a group free DNS services, as they did, hell yes I would drop a “customer” who brought multiple DDoS attacks against my infrastructure.

    Pete mentions that US government documents aren’t copyrightable – this is true, they are in the public domain. But it’s still illegal to distribute classified documents, which is what Wikileaks does. So they *don’t* have the right to publish these documents. The AWS statement says, “But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.”

    So they’re not saying Wikileaks shouldn’t exist, they just should operate somewhere besides Amazon.

    Personally, I think Wikileaks *could* serve a great purpose, but I think Mr. Assange’s only motivation is his own celebrity.

    Greg Bair

    December 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    • Hey Greg. Sure, Amazons and everydns actions are within their company right of refusing a customer etc. This is why i say in the title “who needs censorship when you have amazon and everydns?” … basically my interpretation is that if companies bow to government pressure (and large companies have a hard time resisting it because government can harm them a great deal) then government don’T need any official censorship but it is similar in effect.

      Both companies should know that this is a very sensitive issue and thus i am not happy with their broad statements and pro-government actions. Could Amazon state how they intend to apply their new “if it puts people into jeopardy” rule? Could everydns be a bit more specific about the attacks they are seeing and why they connect it to wikileaks? (attacking a DNS server happens every day). Not to speak of the question if cyber military units can force (free) services to take things offline if they decide they don’t like it because the cost to defend against it is too high.

      As to rightfulness of publishing data – if anything this needs to be judged by a court IMO. In any case, the US and other countries priding themselves in free press, have a tradition of allowing the publication of secret goverment documents even protecting journalists against government interests. Or do we do away with these rights because we are in the “war against terror”?

      And lastly – Assange: i am skeptical about his personality as well and guess he likes to see himself as a hacking James Bond or so. OTOH, some of his statements i find interesting, see here for example.

      holger krekel

      December 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      • At least with Amazon they went forward and gave in only after pressure. In contrast to the NEW YORK FRICKIN TIMES, which ran all of the cables past the Feds before publishing – no threats needed.

        That’s pretty much the definition of state-run media IMO, shareholders or no.

        Pete

        December 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    • Greg writes, “These are private companies, not government agencies. So this is not “censorship”.”

      Given the tendencies of some to advocate pushing government activities into the private sector, this is a convenient tool that I’m sure will be deployed even more widely in future. Freedom of information requirements? “Sorry, but those don’t apply to us – we’re private!”

      “This is private businesses deciding they don’t want a customer.”

      They’ve chosen a funny way of doing so, as others have pointed out.

      “Wikileaks can go to another provider of these services. The market is deciding they don’t want the PR nightmare that comes with dealing with these guys.”

      It’s always great to see someone deferring to “the market” as if it were an unchallenged source of wisdom.

      And what does a “PR nightmare” have to do with the stated problems of these unhappy service providers? Amazon claim that the content is stolen and/or dangerous (to use simplistic terms), whereas EveryDNS make the perverse claim that WikiLeaks is harming others, which is a bit like arresting and punishing the victim of a crime and saying, “You brought this on yourself, you know.”

      It’s even more laughable that the EveryDNS clarification has the air of a “sleeves rolled up” pep-talk, especially with the New Hampshire state motto reference. Live Free or Die, eh? Suddenly, all credibility is somehow restored immediately, and they’re the good guys again, at least among the gullible who pay attention to and still buy into something as parochial as the motto of some small US state.

      In fact, both companies could just have been honest about their motivations. I doubt Amazon do a great deal about the content hosted on their cloud unless someone complains, but there’d be a paper trail involved if that happened. So they just had to be honest about where that paper trail started.

      Likewise, EveryDNS could have said that they can’t handle the traffic associated with illegal third-party activity directed at one of their customers, and are backing away from their commitment. Of course, that would be bad PR, but then “Live Free or Die, people!” If only to stop anyone’s reputation from doing the latter, naturally.

      Horse

      December 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      • EveryDNS is taking a “no-stance” stance in this, apparently. They don’t say whether Wikileaks is right or wrong, they’re just saying that as a result of the attacks, it’s harming their system. What do you do when some resource is harming your system? You remove it. Simple.

        It’s a hassle to deal with (and possibly economically disastrous, if this wasn’t a free service), so most providers of such services do put clauses in their agreements about abuse of services, causing problems for other users, etc.

        By “market” I wasn’t referring to the market in the capitalist, free market sense, I was simply referring to an industry. Read nothing further into it.

        I’m sure Amazon does at least have some oversight of their AWS service, and do act when it feels a client is breaking the law. And, right or wrong, Wikileaks has, by disseminating classified information. Amazon could also be held accountable if they assist (by continuing to host the info on their CDN).

        I’m not saying I agree with the law, but as a company based in the US, Amazon must take its own liability into account in these matters.

        Greg Bair

        December 6, 2010 at 5:49 pm

  5. […] with my yesterday notes a number of questions arise. What exactly is illegal about wikileaks behaviour in the US? Was money […]

  6. Well, if this had been a well-reasoned policy decision on Amazon’s part I might have been OK with it. But nothing about Wikileaks was unknown when they took the business on, so it’s pretty clear they were heavily leaned on by the State Department or some other arm of government.

    As always, Benjamin Franklin’s remark applies: “Those who would sacrifice freedom for liberty deserve neither”. In most democratic countries (yours and mine included) liberty is being eroded without complaint from a passive populace mostly interested in bread and circuses.

    Steve Holden

    December 4, 2010 at 5:34 pm

  7. yeah, i wish we were back in 80s if it goes about network and the “Internet”…from the other side, pages like Wikileaks won’t ever exist then. so, it sounds like a paradox to me. unfortunetaly…

    getxsick

    December 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    • maybe we need to go back to some ideas and ethics of the 80ties to rebuild a better internet on top of and intermingled with the current one :)

      holger krekel

      December 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm


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