Lessons of Wikileaks
The problem is that as Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, Amazon, Everydns.net and PostFinance (the Swiss bank handling funds for Julian Assange's legal defense fund) cut services to Wikileaks, they are acting on the government's allegation that Assange and/or Wikileaks may have committed a crime. To date there are no actual legal charges, let alone convictions in the fracas. And while Joe Lieberman is stomping around demanding that we simply dispense with the first amendment altogether it is not at all obvious that Assange and his compatriots have actually broken any law.
I am not big on conspiracy theories. But as the corporate world capitulates to government demands like this, I am tempted to reassess that propensity. And I wonder why it is that the companies are not nearly so interested in falling into line on say, tax compliance or environmental protections or whatever when the government stops by and says 'pretty please.'
It is important to note that not all the companies that the U.S. Government is pressuring in the anti-Wikileaks campaign have capitulated. According to this report The Guardian, the Swiss firm Switch, which now hosts the Wikileaks web site, is resisting the pressure. Just when one starts to think that all corporations are simply craven here comes a surprise.
Update (later that same day): *I highly recommend this post by Henry Farrell - who, unlike me, actually knows a lot about this general topic of government interference with the Internet - over at Crooked Timber. No need to take my data free speculation for anything more than what it is.