Senator Joe Lieberman, the man behind legislation to give President Obama a kill switch for the Internet in the move towards a Chinese-style government controlled world wide web, now has the power to shut down websites with a mere phone call, as was underscored yesterday when Amazon axed Wikileaks from its servers after being pressured to do so by Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Yet another excuse for another Czar…
The revelation that Amazon had killed Wikileaks after the controversial whistle blower organization moved over its servers to Amazon’s cloud network came directly from Lieberman himself, stating that the, “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.”
The decision was made after Lieberman’s staffers called Amazon to pressure the company to axe Wikileaks. “Committee staff had seen news reports yesterday that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon’s servers,” reports TPM. “Staffers then, according to the spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, “Are there plans to take the site down?”
Amazon later called back Lieberman’s office to tell them that they had taken down the website. Amazon claimed the take down was because Wikileaks had violated its terms of service, but as TPM’s Rachel Slajda points out, this was a somewhat nebulous reason.
“(Amazon’s) terms of acceptable use include a ban on illegal activities (it’s not yet clear whether Wikileaks has broken any laws) and content “that may be harmful to our users, operations, or reputation.” It also prohibits using Amazon’s servers “to violate the security or integrity of any network, computer or communications system,” although Wikileaks obviously obtained the cables long before hopping on Amazon’s servers.”
“Funny how Amazon spent days loudly refusing to delete a pedophile guidebook on free speech grounds, but this happened behind the scenes and the company is refusing to comment,” writes Rob Beschizza.
Wikileaks also responded to the shut down by slamming Amazon for its apparent disdain for free speech, tweeting, “If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.”
The London Guardian notes that the website was pulled after “US political pressure”.
Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston labeled Amazon’s decision to kill the website “disappointing,” adding that “pressure” from Lieberman’s office or any other authority serves to “limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access.”
The fact that Lieberman has concentrated such power within the purview of Homeland Security and now wields it by intimidating hosting companies to take down websites with no due course or legal process is particularly alarming given his recent odious public statements concerning free speech and the web.
As we have documented, Lieberman’s vision for the Internet is less of an information superhighway and more of a government-controlled sanitized clone of cable television, where the web is purged entirely of dissent in a system even more draconian than that employed by the Communist Chinese.
The Senator has been vehemently pushing efforts to provide President Barack Obama the power to shut down the Internet with a figurative flick of a switch, and has made it clear that his Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is about big government deciding who can say what on the web.
“Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,” Lieberman told CNN’s Candy Crowley earlier this year.
However, China’s “war” is not against foreign terrorists or hackers, it’s against people who dare to use the Internet to express dissent against government atrocities or corruption. China’s system of Internet policing is about crushing freedom of speech and has nothing to do with legitimate security concerns as Lieberman well knows. It’s a system concentrated around state oppression of any individual or group that seeks to use the Internet to draw attention to political causes frowned upon by the authorities.
China has exercised its power to shut down the Internet, something that Lieberman wants to introduce in the U.S., at politically sensitive times in order to stem the flow of information about government abuse of its citizens.
This is what Lieberman envisions for the future of the Internet in the United States, a highly regulated, state-controlled forum where the government can shut down websites it disapproves of on a whim, as is already being done by Homeland Security without court order in dozens of cases this week alone.