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Waging War with the Internets

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February 27, 2008

If you follow the political blogs, you probably know about the Wikileaks case. In a nutshell, last week a district court judge ruled in favor of Swiss Bank Julius Baer and ordered the Wikileaks domain name shut down because a former bank employee allegedly used the site to post proof that the bank is involved in a money laundering scheme. Wired’s Threat Level gives an excellent, thorough run-down of the story.

Last night the ACLU, the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a motion to intervene in that lawsuit. In our motion, we argue that the court’s action to shut down the site’s domain was a violation of the First Amendment rights of the journalists, academics, and organizations who rely on Wikileaks for their work and members of the public who use the information posted on the site. (Not to mention clients of the bank that might be involved in illegal activities.)

It’s worth emphasizing, as Wired did, that these bank documents are still available to view on Wikileak “mirror” sites based in other countries, and you can still access the site through its IP address. Which sort of goes to show that this bank doesn’t realize how the Internet works: if you shut down a domain, you’re just spurring Wikileaks fans to create many, many duplicates of what you’re trying to control and eliminate.

CORRECTION: The original headline of this post was changed because we realized it might be misleading. Bank Julius Baer had a right to take action to try to protect its sensitive information. However, the agreement signed by the judge to disable the entire domain name because of the bank documents posted there was harsh, overbroad, and an affront to the right of the public to access information. It also showed a certain lack of understanding of the way information resides and travels on the Internet, and how the public uses and accesses the internet.