Should We Boycott Amazon for WikiLeaks decision?

Posted in politics tagged , at 12:14 pm by cori

Dave Winer writes about his decision *not* to boycott Amazon for their behavior and decisions around the WikiLeaks embassy cables. While I’m not boycotting Amazon either (more on this below), I think Dave’s logic is flawed.

Dave states that Amazon isn’t the guarantor of anyone’s rights; that’s the role of a government, not the role of business.  And to a degree that’s true: we can’t rely upon self-interested corporations to act in *our* best interests; we would be fools to expect that to be the case, no matter how much we might desire it.

However, neither can we expect governments to act in our best interests, as some of the previously released WikiLeaks documents have make clear. A government’s main motivation is self-preservation, not public service.  I do choose to believe, however, that companies that we entrust with our information ought not to knuckle under to the application of a little pressure from the government without appropriate legal actions.

In the end, the question is not whether we should boycott Amazon, but whether we should be giving our business to a company that will forgo it’s service agreement with us without any legal action on the part of the government. Where is the line between Amazon’s shutting off service to WikiLeaks without any legal claim from the government and Amazon shutting down service on a site that exposes a local government’s malfeasance, merely at the request of the local authorities?

All of that said, as I said above, I am not boycotting Amazon.  Here’s why:

  1. I am not an AWS customer – I don’t use the services that Amazon cut off from WikiLeaks.
  2. My participation, or lack thereof, in Amazon’s commercial activities is unlikely to be noted by Amazon, and even if it were is unlikely to make the round trip back to the portion of the organization responsible for the actions against WikiLeaks.
  3. Most importantly, I am not convinced that WikiLeaks deserves my actions on its behalf. As Clay Shirky has very recently noted there are reasons to suspect that WikiLeaks’ behavior is not focused on the sorts of oversight that I want to subject our government to, but is instead directed at causing damage. I strongly agree with what Shirky writes, including his confliction about WikiLeaks motivation and whether the release of the cables is a step over the line between required diplomatic secrecy and the sort of secrecy-by-default our government (including the Obama administration) has increasingly been making standard operating procedure, but until I’m less conflicted about WikiLeaks and their role and motivations I can’t take the sort of unequivocal stand that it would take for me to support a boycott of any kind.


  1. Eldon Tyrell said,

    Oh dear, that’s sad.

    So there is a problem … WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? The corporations and governments ask you to bend over every day and what do you do? Shrug your shoulders and give up? Bah!

    • cori said,

      As I indicated, for now I’m not going to do anything. As I noted in point #3 given what I know at the moment, I don’t feel called to invest myself – this is, as far as I’m concerned, an ethical gray area and until I find some more clarity about it I won’t commit myself.

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