The price you pay for money

The WikiLeaks thing has been interesting. A metric ton of secret diplomatic communicatins laid bare for the world to see. To be perfectly blunt, there isn’t that much of significance in there – it boils down to some fairly juicy tittle tattle and gossip. What has been interesting is the reactions to it. The politicians and civil services involved have been quick to overreact, claiming lives are in danger, people could be killed and so on and so forth. This is a load of old cobblers, as last time WikiLeaks pulled this stunt, no-one has been in danger.

Good old Sarah Palin weighed in with the full weight of her intellect, suggesting that Julian Assange should be hunted like Osama Bin Laden. Which brought the most perfect 140 character riposte on Twitter.


Second is that this stuff should never have been released as it harms how they operate. This is a view I have some sympathy for. Politics and diplomacy take place behind closed doors and are a game of poker. The less of your cards your opponent can see, the better. WikiLeaks has basically thrown all the cards face up for the reason that… well, because it can, really.

However, that sympathy ran out when I realised that the people and Governments involved had, for the last decade or so, been systematically stripping us of our civil liberties and imposing more and more invasions of privacy. Their standard retort to complaints was “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothig to fear”. So, Governments who are complaining about these documents, you get the same quote back at you, thrown with quite vehement force.

Right now, WikiLeaks is offline. Its DNS provider, has pulled its domain name hosting service from WikiLeaks. (In short, a website is hosted on an IP address, which is hard to remember, the domain name maps onto the IP address which is easy to remember, so you find find a website via the domain name. No domain name lookup, website is hard to find.) Until earlier this week, WikiLeaks was hosted on Amazons S3 service (like bloody Twitter). I say until, as Amazon yanked the site as well. Both did so under pressure, politically, technically (they were subject to DDOS attacks designed to bring down the system) and most of all, pressure to stop taking WikiLeaks business.

Which brings me to my point. It is worth noting that we (as in “the West”) look at the censorship in China, North Korea and so on in a mixture of horror and bemusement. We still see images coming out of those places, so it can’t be all encompassing. We know that it will eventually break under pressure and the truth will out. That censorship is down to politics and the desire for Government control. Good old fashioned State censorship as political principle.

But and Amazon are private businesses and subject to protection under law. They provide a service and are no more liable for WikiLeaks content than BT is for carrying phone calls between terrorists. Yet both companies decided to get rid of WikiLeaks because it was bad for business. So which is worse? Being censored as an extension of principle, or being censored for cash? And lets be clear here, WikiLeaks is being knocked off the internet voluntarily and for money. Nothing to do with law or secrecy, it just ain’t worth the cash to and Amazon.

Say what you like about North Korea, at least it isn’t selling out free speech for money.

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