Friday, December 3, 2010

Morning Brief: Newspaper go blank over media law; WikiLeaks loses its domain, registers in Switzerland

Some newspaper editors across Hungary protested a new media law by producing blank front pages for their newspapers yesterday. The new law they say gives strong new powers to the government to control the media in their country .
The news magazine Magyar Narancs, pictured here, was one of those protesting the new law. "Placed before Parliament in December, the draft law on media services and communications would provide total control of the Media, and through that the government of the electronic and print media over the Internet," the editors proclaimed on the paper's website (Google translation).

"The media council", an organization made up of officials chosen by the government, would have powers under the new law to fine publications whose content was deemed "unbalanced" or contained sex, violence or alcohol. The council could impose fines of up to €90,000 on print and web-based media entities and fines of €700,000 on radio and TV broadcasters.

WikiLeaks lost its domain name today as as it expeled the muckraking organization, forcing WikiLeaks to use a new domain, said they made the decision because WikiLeaks had been the victim of massive cyber attacks, forcing the website offline. "These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites," the company said.

Despite the attacks, the almost complete lack of support from American journalists and media organizations, WikiLeaks is currently online. I would rip up my degree in journalism in protest over all this . . . if I could find the damn thing. Must be in a box containing my disco dancing shoes.

In the meantime, here is Amazon's statement in full explaining their decision to end service for WikiLeaks:
There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate.

There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. 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’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, 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. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.

We’ve been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. Some of this data is controversial, and that’s perfectly fine. 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.

Yesterday Daniel Ellsberg, the man behind the Pentagon Papers, called for a boycott of Amazon over this action.