US Federal Judge bans free speech

According to Wikipedia, Wikileaks is a website which allows whistleblowers to release government and corporate documents, anonymously and without possible retribution. But a US federal district court judge has tried to close it down.

Wikileaks revealed details of criminal activity at the Cayman Island branch of the Julius Baer bank. Officials of the bank went crying to a California district court, and Judge Jeffrey White ordered Dynadot, registrar of the domain name wikileaks.org, to take that site name offline – permanently.

The New York Times says that the judge’s actions are unconstitutional: taking away the domain name “was akin to shutting down a newspaper because of objections to one article. The First Amendment requires the government to act only in the most dire circumstances when it regulates free expression.”

Judge White has acted like he’s an employee of Julius Baer… but what’s really funny is that the tizzy-fit in the US courts has been pretty much a waste of time. So the wikileak.org domain name has gone – but there’s still wikileaks.be, mirrored documents at cryptome.org, and Wikileaks is also available at the IP address http://88.80.13.160. To shut down these access methods, Julius Baer would have to pursue injunctions in all the jurisdictions where they’re registered or where the servers reside – and these are deliberately scattered around to make such action very difficult!

But, even though Julius Baer and their pet judge have been ineffectual, it’s still damn out of order for them to try and silence free speech on the net. Wikileaks serves an important function – its original purpose was, in part, to allow Chinese dissidents to speak out without having to watch their backs – and the American courts have revealed that they don’t give a toss about freedom of expression even though that freedom is meant to be constitutionally enshrined there.

In most countries, laws relating to free speech and a free press still don’t apply online, even though the internet has been in existence for years. So Judge White can try to hide behind the argument that a website is not a newspaper. But we all know that’s a bunch of bullshit. There’s an expression in England: “The law is an ass.” And it applies just as well to the judge.

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