Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Responsible firms ‘should maintain WikiLeaks links’

February 2011

Technology companies have been urged not to withdraw their services from WikiLeaks after several businesses boycotted the organization under government pressure.

When WikiLeaks published thousands of US embassy cables recently, Amazon cancelled its web-hosting service to the organization, the WikiLeaks domain name was withdrawn by its US-based provider EveryDNS, and the Swiss bank account of its founder Julian Assange was shut.

The privacy and free speech Global Network Initiative (GNI), however, has said companies should act more responsibly by adhering to their own terms of use, which should be ‘consistent with freedom of expression and privacy implications’.

The network, whose members include Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and asset managers such as F&C and Calvert, recommends that technology companies should be ‘transparent with their customers and other users about how they respond to government pressure or demands’.

The GNI, which says it takes no position on WikiLeaks’ specific actions, outlines basic procedures for following government requests. It says: ‘An ICT company should determine whether a government action is consistent with the government’s legal and other obligations to their citizens, and, based on that analysis, implement a decision-making process that protects the freedom of expression and privacy rights of... customers.’

Amazon became the victim of a consumer boycott and a large-scale cyber attack after deciding to sever ties with WikiLeaks in the wake of calls by US senators for businesses to terminate relationships with the site.

WikiLeaks is under US criminal investigation for publishing secret embassy documents, and a number of senators are recommending the death penalty for Assange.

The whistleblowing website has recently published damaging details of the operations of multinationals, including BP’s response to disasters preceding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Shell’s involvement with the Nigerian state and attempts by McDonald’s to influence US legislation in order to avoid charges in El Salvador.

WikiLeaks | Global | Transparency

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