December 3, 2010 / 3:34 AM / in 7 years

Amazon blocks out WikiLeaks, but denies U.S. pressure

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc said on Thursday it has stopped hosting the website of WikiLeaks, which published sensitive classified U.S. government information, but it denied it was a result of pressure from lawmakers.

<p>The home page of the Wikileaks.org website is pictured on a computer in Hoboken, New Jersey, November 28, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>

“There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate,” the company said in a statement.

“There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against.”

Amazon said it stopped hosting WikiLeaks’ website because it violated its terms of service, not because an inquiry by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee sparked anger about the release of thousands of classified U.S. government documents.

Staff for the committee’s chairman, Joe Lieberman, had questioned Amazon about its relationship with WikiLeaks on Tuesday and called on other companies that provide Web-hosting services to boycott WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks turned to Amazon to keep its site available after hackers tried to flood it and prevent users accessing the classified information. WikiLeaks said it is now being hosted by servers in Europe.

In its statement on Thursday, Amazon said its Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed.

“WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating,” the company said.

For example, it said under its terms of service, a customer must guarantee it owns or controls all of the rights to the content and that use of the content will not cause injury to any person or entity.

“It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content,” Amazon 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.”

Amazon said that in four years it had hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. “Some of this data is controversial, and that’s perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.”

WikiLeaks slammed Amazon for dropping it, saying via the social media network Twitter that if Amazon was “so uncomfortable with the First Amendment (of the U.S. Constitution), they should get out of the business of selling books.”

Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Richard Chang

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