VP and Assist. General Counsel Of NY Times: How Can Corporations Blacklist WikiLeaks, But Not The NY Times?

by on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm in Politics, WikiLeaks

At the ‘Media Law in the Digital Age‘ conference at Kennesaw State University last weekend, the Vice President and General Counsel of the New York Times, David McGraw, addressed the disturbing trend in which private for-profit corporations have been doing governments’ bidding by shutting down publishers like WikiLeaks:

Lucy Dalglish, Exec. Dir. RCFP: Even organizations like WikiLeaks need money to survive, and one of the reactions wasn’t so much the governments trying to shut them down, but the vehicles by which they got their funding have tried to shut them down: Paypal, Amazon, Visa, all of these folks, have basically said “We don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

And my understanding is that WikiLeaks has been suffering because of that. Do you have any thoughts about basically good old fashioned Capitalism having a role in whether or not the public gets access to this information?

McGraw: … It is a hard question, but a very very troubling development that people who are private actors on the financial side are going to be making these decisions. Whether its Mastercard and Visa cutting off donations; whether it’s Amazon shutting people out of the cloud — preventing access to books they disapprove of — if they were to go down that route.

Unfortunately, at this point, it is legal for them to do that, it appears — absent some restraint on trade concerns which haven’t surfaced — for them to make that decision. I think it puts a great deal of power in the hands of people who — while they probably have cash registers for brains, as Russell Baker once said — that making that call is, putting that power in their hands, is troubling. 

It’s odd of course, and WikiLeaks was quick to point this out, that while Amazon is throwing them off of their server storage and asking them to find a home elsewhere, that they continue to offer the New York Times through Kindle. How do they justify the difference between those two things when both were publishing these documents? I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think it raises a scary proposition when private companies not in the publishing industry, not part of the marketplace of ideas, are controlling that marketplace.




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