photo © 2008 J Fowler | more info (via: Wylio)With Amazon, Paypal and EveryDNS.net dissolving their relationships to WikiLeaks, leaving it without a stable home and a way to make money, Twitter currently serves as the only solid ground the Internet whistleblower has to stand on. This has left many wondering whether or not Twitter will eventually take down the @wikileaks account if put under enough pressure, from lawmakers or otherwise.
In fact it’s pretty interesting that the account is still up. Twitter has co-operated with the government before, postponing performing maintenance so Iranians could tweet in the aftermath of the Iran 2009 presidential election. The company even recently hired a DC liaison to deepen its relationship to Washington.
When asked whether or not it would take the account down under any circumstances, Twitter officially responded with “No comment.” But, according to one source, the company has not yet received any government request.
The legality of WikiLeaks is a subject of debate, as assisting in leaking classified information may or may not count as espionage. PayPal cited “assisting” when it decided to to drop the site, citing the TOS clause that reads “Our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity” as a reason.
TOSes basically function as a way for companies to cover their asses. As Twitter can do whatever it wants with regards to usernames, @wikileaks’ future basically hinges on interpretations of the Twitter TOS. And there are multiple clauses in the Twitter TOS that could be used to justify removing the @wikileaks account including:
“You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.”
“You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.”
And so on, you get the point.
This surprisingly broad-brushed addendum to the “we can delete your username” clause in the TOS’ beginning also does not bode well for WikiLeaks in the case of a government intervention.
“We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to (i) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, (ii) enforce the Terms, including investigation of potential violations hereof … v) protect the rights, property or safety of Twitter, its users and the public.”
It actually includes the words “governmental request,” wording so broad it could even include a letter from Joe Lieberman.
As for the speculation being tossed around that Twitter is suppressing the hashtags #wikileaks and #cablegate, Twitter says that it absolutely does not interfere with possible trending topics terms. Twitter representative Carolyn Penner just tweeted that the pecularity of the trends algorithm is the reason that Wikileaks is not trending nationally. People have been reporting seeing the terms #WikiLeaks and #cablegate in local trending topics since last week.