Amazon says government pressure didn't lead to WikiLeaks ban

Rules about ownership of content and against publishing data that might harm others led to decision, Amazon says

Amazon Web Services (AWS) kicked WikiLeaks off its servers for breaking rules designed to ensure websites use their own content and that it won't injure others, and not due to pressure from the U.S. government, Amazon said Thursday.

"AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them," Amazon said in a blog posting. "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 added.

A day earlier, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said Amazon stopped hosting Wikileaks after being contacted by the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, a committee Lieberman chairs.

Wikileaks drew controversy for the continued publication of classified U.S. documents, including videos and documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This time the classified documents in question were sensitive cables sent from and between U.S. embassies and the U.S. State Department. The cables contain embarrassing details about the U.S.'s relationship with governments around the world. U.S. officials had complained that information in the cables could compromise government personnel, while human rights groups had written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution in the release and not name human rights defenders that might then face persecution by their governments.

Amazon noted that WikiLeaks was publishing documents it does not own and that, "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," Amazon said in the blog posting.

WikiLeaks said it asked the State Department to name the documents that might compromise individuals, which the U.S. refused, according to notes the group published.

WikiLeaks also lambasted Amazon for its decision to kick it off AWS servers, saying it would now host its servers in Europe and questioning whether Amazon is fit to sell books.

"If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the First Amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books," WikiLeaks said via Twitter.

Amazon also made reference to the massive DDOS (Denial of Service) attacks against its servers, which WikiLeaks said reached 10 Gigabits per second on Nov. 30.

"There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against," Amazon said.

WikiLeaks has released a slew of classified U.S. documents this year, hundreds of thousands of documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. State Department cables. More recently it said it would publish information from major U.S. banks to out corruption in the financial sector.

The head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange [CQ], is currently being sought by prosecutors in Sweden over rape accusations, which his lawyers have denied. Interpol has issued a wanted notice for Assange, saying he is wanted for questioning in Sweden. WikiLeaks has characterized the charges as a way to shut him up over the release of so many classified government documents.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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