Washington News Council
promoting fairness, accuracy, & balance in the news media
An open discussion of ethics in our news media.
Two Seattle companies, Amazon and Tableau, have now entered the international firestorm surrounding the latest outbreak of classified information from Wikileaks.
Amazon stepped into the fray by providing hosting to the Wikileaks site after their original Swedish hosts were bombarded with cyber attacks on the day the classified documents became public. Amazon then pulled the plug after getting a call from Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee.
Tableau is a data visualization company that was hosting graphical charts about the “cablegate” documents until they too decided to back out after Lieberman issued a call on all companies hosting Wikileaks to terminate their relationship. Unlike Amazon, which published the actual content of the illegally seized material, nothing that Tableau hosted was classified information.
Glenn Greenwald explains more about that here:
Internet free speech advocate Rebecca McKinnon has a very provocative piece on CNN.com that questions the new role that private companies have on free speech.
“What is troubling and dangerous is that in the internet age, public discourse increasingly depends on digital spaces created, owned and operated by private companies. The result is that one politician has more power than ever to shut down controversial speech unilaterally with one phone call.”
Indeed, she points out that “As far as the law is concerned, Amazon is off the hook. Speech within the kingdom of Amazonia — run by its sovereign Jeff Bezos and his board of directors with help from the wise counsel and judgment of the company’s executives — is not protected in the same way that speech is constitutionally protected in America’s public spaces.”
Her article also brings up a similar situation with different results, this time involving Lieberman’s demand to Google that they remove what he considered to be content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations. Only a few of the videos were removed because they violated YouTube’s community guidelines against violence and hate speech, but most of them remained.
Read the rest of MacKinnon’s thoughts here:
and tell us your thoughts on the new era of privately owned public speech. Aside from what your opinion is on the Wikileaks revelations, the much broader question of who gets to decide what stays published will continue to come up as we increasingly move our discourse online.
Log in or join the WNC Community.
See also: more about the WNC Team
Return to top of page
Copyright © 2013 · Washington News Council · Terms of Service · Log in