WikiLeaks Block Hurts Anonymity Everywhere

    by Benjamin Melançon
    February 18, 2008

    Anonymous communication online is becoming quite a theme here on Idea Lab.

    The web site WikiLeaks.org (if you’re in the United States, right now you’ll have to access it through their IP address) reports that it has been censored by U.S. court injunction (it is also banned in China).

    The point of the web site is to allow people to post anonymously information – in large quantities – that governments and corporations don’t want people to know.


    This is bad. Taking down a domain name is a drastic measure for suppressing information on the Internet. If this is not pushed back against strongly by everyone who believes in journalism and the right to an informed public, it will have a chilling effect on all media that operates online. Which is to say, almost all media – from the largest corporation to the smallest local forum.

    Tagged: censorship
    • Hat tip: Liz Burbank.

      I wouldn’t really consider it confirmed until I had a copy of the court order myself or the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Citizen Media Law Project covered it. But in fine journalistic traditio, I took a look and saw a bunch of other places were covering it, so I ran with it, though I didn’t see that their sources were any more than mine.

    • Ben,

      You’ve got the details correct on this. We put up a post about the injunction around the same time you did. I confirmed the injunction by accessing the court’s electronic docket and uploaded all of the relevant documents to the CMLP’s legal threats database: Julius Baer Bank and Trust v. Wikileaks.


      ps: As of 11:00pm EST on February 18, the Wikileaks.org domain is still down, but the organization issued a press release through one of its of mirror sites:

      Transparency group Wikileaks forcibly censored at ex-parte Californian hearing — ordered to print blank pages — ‘wikileaks.org’ name forcibly deleted from Californian domain registrar — the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?

      When the transparency group Wikileaks was censored in China last year, no-one was too surprised. After all, the Chinese government also censors the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers and New York Based Human Rights Watch. And when Wikileaks published the secret censorship lists of Thailand’s military Junta, no-one was too surprised when people in that country had to go to extra lengths to read the site. But on Friday the 15th, February 2008, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and a constitution which states “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”, the Wikileaks.org press was shutdown.

    • Thanks, David, fantastic reporting! I was coming here to link to your post, glad to see you beat me to that too!

      Is there any risk of the initial injunction setting legal precedent if not formally rescinded?

    • David Ardia now has a fantastic write-up of the status so far. (In short: there appears to be collusion with Julias Baer bank and domain registrar Dynadot – which faces no legal liability – and the federal judge’s ruling is breathtakingly unprecedented prior restrain, he still hasn’t read the First Amendment, but Wikileaks is still accessible from multiple non-US domain names and getting significant media attention.)

      I’m glad the tactic is effectively failing in practice, but it needs to be slapped down legally and, if it has any purpose, ICANN, as soon as possible.

      As for the actual leaked documents, Wikileaks isn’t even exactly sure what they mean, or which are accurate.

      While a lot of the extensive information and documentation is very hard to interpret, if at all, this [… is] the story of one of the biggest banks involved into offshoring business on the Caymans, dealing with an issue related to the privacy of their businesses. A story of a bank that by its actions right from the beginning to all action taken today, shows it has a lot to hide from all parties eventually involved. A story of a bank that rather uses scare tactics than talk about its business in a proper lawsuit. A story of a bank that seems about willing to do anything to silence what Rudolf Elmer has to say.

      But none of this, Daniel Schmitt writes on behalf of Wikileaks, “should not distract us from the actions of Bank Julius Baer in its attempts to silence its former high-level employee or the role it plays in supporting ultra-rich’s offshore tax avoidance, tax evasion, asset hiding and money laundering.”

      And do not forget that in addition to supporting anonymity, Wikileaks is a wiki– built for collaboration and review: Wikileaks would like to encourage everyone out there to have a look at the information. We encourage anyone dealing with tax fraud and evasion and offshore/Swiss banking to review the material posted with us.

    • Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a bunch of reporters’ and press freedom groups move to support Wikileaks in its fight against unprecedented Internet censorship.

    • Bonnee

      Here’s another for ya:

      A sex-cult guru suing a forum for discussing the fact that the public needs to be warned about people like him.

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