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WikiLeaks and Amazon: A free speech issue?

WikiLeaks has been banned from Amazon servers. And for some critics, that's a very problematic development indeed.

By Matthew Shaer / December 3, 2010

WikiLeaks has been booted from Amazon servers. WikiLeaks reps say that Amazon has violated the principles of free speech. Others aren't so sure.

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On Wednesday, WikiLeaks – the organization behind one of the largest diplomatic data dumps in history – was ejected from Amazon cloud-based servers, apparently under pressure from US politicians. According to CNN, Amazon was contacted this week by several US senators, including Joe Lieberman, who urged the company to immediately terminate its relationship with WikiLeaks.

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"I wish that Amazon had taken this action earlier based on WikiLeaks' previous publication of classified material," Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut, said in a statement this week. "The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material."

Lieberman argues that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have violated the law by releasing the contents of thousands of secret US diplomatic memos. He is not alone. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the document dump an "attack on the international community"; former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has gone so far as to brand Assange an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands."

But WikiLeaks has plenty of support in the media, from Arianna Huffington – who has praised the organization for shedding new light on the ongoing war in Afghanistan – to Jack Shafer, the media critic for Slate, who says "[i]nformation conduits like Julian Assange" help "shock" us out of our "complacency." The debate over the legality of the leaks – and the possibility of international legal action against Assange – is likely to continue for weeks.

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