Does anyone care that the Connecticut Senator is single-handedly suppressing political content from the Internet?
(updated below – Update II)
Following up on my post from earlier today about Joe Lieberman’s Chinese-replicating Internet censorship efforts (and please read that first for the context), I wanted this to be highlighted separately: The New York Times reports that another company has now capitulated to Lieberman’s demands: ”a Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which provides a free Web platform for interactive graphics, removed charts uploaded by WikiLeaks in response to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s public statement that companies should stop helping the whistle-blowers.” Tableau issued a statement, which reads in part:
Wednesday afternoon, Tableau Software removed data visualizations published by WikiLeaks to Tableau Public. We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly. . . .
Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.
I just spoke with the creator of the “visualizations”: a British freelance journalist named James Ball. The only thing these “visualizations” presented were charts summarizing the material released by WikiLeaks (for instance, the charts counted the documents which originated from each country, the number of documents by year, and the like). These charts contained no classified information whatsoever, and disclosed nothing about the content of the cables. It was the completely innocuous work of a freelance journalist to inform the public about the categories of documents released. Those charts were then linked to from the WikiLeaks site, but hosted separately by Tableau.
Those are the benign, purely legal documents that have now been removed from the Internet in response to Joe Lieberman’s demands and implied threats. He’s on some kind of warped mission where he’s literally running around single-handedly dictating what political content can and cannot be on the Internet, issuing broad-based threats to “all companies” that — by design — are causing suppression of political information. I understand Tableau’s behavior here; imagine if you were a small company and Joe Lieberman basically announced: I am Homeland Security and you are to cease being involved with this organization which many say is a Terrorist group and Enemy Combatant. What Lieberman is doing is a severe abuse of power, and even for our anemic, power-revering media, it ought to be a major scandal (though it’s not because, as Digby says, all our media stars can process is that “Julian Assange is icky”).
If people — especially journalists — can’t be riled when Joe Lieberman is unilaterally causing the suppression of political content from the Internet, when will they be? After all, as Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in condemning this, the same rationale Lieberman is using to demand that Amazon and all other companies cease any contact with WikiLeaks would justify similar attacks on The New York Times, since they’ve published the same exact diplomatic cables on its site as WikiLeaks has on its (added: the only diplomatic cables posted on the WikiLeaks site thus far are the ones published by the newspapers with which WikiLeaks partnered — such as the NYT, Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc. — and they include those newspapers’ redactions; no other cables have yet been posted to the WikiLeaks site). What Joe Lieberman is doing is indescribably pernicious and if “journalists” cared in the slightest about their own self-interest — never mind all the noble things they pretend to care about — they ought to be vociferously objecting to this.
[Tomorrow morning, at 8:00 am, I'll be on Democracy Now, debating Steven Aftergood, the transparency advocate and and WikiLeaks critic. Local listings and live video feed is here.]
UPDATE: These are the charts prepared by Ball that Tableau had been hosting (click to enlarge), and below that is video of Lieberman, on MSNBC earlier this evening, re-iterating his demand that “any company” cease hosting WikiLeaks sites and vowing to “put pressure” on all such companies:
UPDATE II: Yesterday, I recorded a Bloggingheads TV session with Matt Welch, Editor-in-Chief of Reason, in which we discussed various aspects of WikiLeaks and the media’s reaction to it, as well as a few other issues (including The Nation article on John Tyner and the way in which DOMA prevents gay Americans from living in their country with their foreign national spouse). It’s roughly one hour long and can be viewed on the player below, or one can choose to watch specific segments of it based on topics here:
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