It is no secret that the US government is trying hard to deny people’s access to WikiLeaks, even to the extent of telling government employees, and even people who might think of applying for government jobs in the future, to not read the released documents. Since in an oligarchy government and big business work in concert, it did not take long for Amazon to realize that it had better remove WikiLeaks from their cloud servers, for EveryDNS, a US-based domain name provider, to close their service to WikiLeaks, and for PayPal to stop allowing people to contribute to WikiLeaks through their service. Visa and MasterCard have reportedly stopped allowing payments to WikiLeaks (though my contribution on Sunday went through). We have also seen denial of service attacks to disable their servers.
When the Chinese government tried to limit the access of their people to the internet, there were big protests in the US about the suppression of free speech by the same people who are now cheering the actions against WikiLeaks led by the US government, but this kind of hypocrisy by the US government and its media lackeys has become depressingly routine. Via the invaluable Glenn Greenwald, I learned that the State Department just issued a press release proudly announcing that the US is going to Host World Press Freedom Day in 2011 where they will honor a “a person, organization or institution that has notably contributed to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom, especially where risks have been undertaken.” WikiLeaks and Julian Assange should be shoo-ins for that award. I wonder if Assistant Secretary of State P. J. Crowley (the author of the State Department press release and whose hypocrisy I have written about before) ever looks at himself in the mirror and wonders how he could have sunk so low.
The media organization Reporters Without Borders has issued a strong statement condemning the efforts to suppress WikiLeaks.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure being directed at cablegate.wikileaks.org, the website dedicated to the US diplomatic cables. The organization is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed.
Reporters Without Borders can only condemn this determination to hound Assange and reiterates its conviction that WikiLeaks has a right under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to publish these documents and is even playing a useful role by making them available to journalists and the greater public.
We stress that any restriction on the freedom to disseminate this body of documents will affect the entire press, which has given detailed coverage to the information made available by WikiLeaks, with five leading international newspapers actively cooperating in preparing it for publication.
Reporters Without Borders would also like to stress that it has always defended online freedom and the principle of “Net neutrality,” according to which Internet Service Providers and hosting companies should play no role in choosing the content that is placed online.
Of course, WikiLeaks is resourceful enough to find ways around these efforts at information suppression and it has plenty of allies on the internet who know how to counter government efforts at repression. Already about 200 mirror sites have been created with their creators using Twitter to organize their countermove. A group called Anonymous has launched Operation Payback targeting those entities trying to attack WikiLeaks and have themselves taken down the website of MasterCard and the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s legal defense fund. They have issued a manifesto on YouTube. (It is interesting that they are using the V for Vendetta mask as a rallying symbol, the way it was used in that film. I wrote about the deep significance of this film and its politics when it was released in 2006.)
In an information war between repressive governments and their corporate allies and media lackeys on the one hand, and freedom-loving people with hacker credentials on the other, it is not clear that the government side can win without actually shutting down the internet.
I think it should be pretty clear which side I am on. In order to increase access to WikiLeaks, I have added a link to the WikiLeaks home page on the right hand side navigation column bar that I will update whenever necessary. If you click on that link, it will take you to their home page where all the released documents can be accessed and has a link to a page that gives you options to contribute money.