Friday, December 03, 2010

Taking Amazon at their word ...


Amazon.com's spokesperson says (as reported by the Wall Street Journal) that the company's reasons for booting Wikileaks from its servers were half ideological, half just plain false, and not due to pressure from the US government:

It was "inaccurate" to claim that pressure from the U.S. government or large-scale attacks by hackers caused the company to discontinue its service of WikiLeaks, said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener in a statement ...

The false part:

WikiLeaks "doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," one of the stipulations of Amazon's contractual terms, he said.

There are no "intellectual property" implications here. US government documents aren't protected by copyright. Whether "nobody" owns them or "everybody" owns them is an interesting question, but what's absolutely certain is that Wikileaks is not violating any "intellectual property" rights by making them available. Herdener is, at the very least, prevaricating wildly there.

The ideological part:

Mr. Herdener said that Amazon's terms of service also require that content "will not cause injury to any person or entity." Yet he said "it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy.

So the spokesperson for the largest bookstore on earth publicly claims that words are dangerous and can hurt people and that Amazon wants nothing to do with words like that. Chalk up a new high for cognitive dissononance.

And for hypocrisy -- as of a few minutes ago, Amazon is still selling The Communist Manifesto, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and In Praise of Public Life: The Honor And Purpose Of Political Service.

If words really are dangerous and really can hurt people, well, each of the aforementioned books can be plausibly linked to more deaths than the entire Wikileaks ouvre has been so far.

So much for Amazon being the "victim," as some opponents of a boycott -- at least one of whom for some reason felt the need to email me with an invitation to go fuck myself for even temporarily dissociating myself from Amazon while I awaited their explanation -- have claimed.

So far as I'm concerned, my negative social and economic preferencing of Amazon has now transitioned from temporary to permanent: I just don't care to do business with the company any more. Your mileage may vary, and that's fine. You can even bust my balls about it if it makes you feel better.

If anyone wants to do something techy to support dissociation by Amazon affiliates, some Blogger and WordPress scripts for removing/replacing Amazon links in an automated manner would be really cool. That's a task I'm not looking forward to doing manually.

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