The entire world seems to be looking at Wikileaks after the release of some of the almost 250,000 diplomatic wires from U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. Endless lines will be written about this, my own view is close to what Simon Jenkins writes in his commentary piece in The Guardian, the media has the right to embarrass the powerful.
I am more interested about what will happen to the site. Unsurprisingly, Wikileaks has now become one of the top targets for several governments around the world. Can the website be shut down? This is more of an intellectual exercise, I support what Wikileaks is doing. The way I see it, governments do not have many alternatives against the site.
- Banning the site. Many affected countries may want to directly attack the Wikileaks website because it publishes sensitive, banned, and/or infringing materials. This of course may be easier said than done. Wikileaks is hosted in a distributed manner in several European countries, and in theory it would be possible to host it elsewhere if the European regulatory environment became problematic.
- Technical means. The easiest thing to do for some countries is to filter Wikileaks, I would guess that the website is probably being blocked in Saudi Arabia this morning given the content of some of the cables. However, filtering the site does not destroy it. When the leak first took place, the site was subject to illegal technical measures, namely a Denial of Service attack.
- Go after the head. The obvious target has become Julian Assange. Australia and the United States already have hinted that they may pursue the Wikileaks founder, and other countries may follow suit. Assange has become a prominent and controversial figure, and there have been grumblings about his ego in various places. It may be important to stress that Wikileaks is larger than Assange.
- The nuclear option. The United States may attempt at some point to exercise a more concerted effort. Just last week, the FCC cancelled the domain name registration of 70 torrent tracker websites. In theory, the U.S. government might use similar options to remove the wikileaks.org registration. This will not affect the servers, but it might make it harder to find the site.
Concluding, Wikileaks can be filtered out in specific countries, and it may even suffer temporarily from DDoS attacks, but to remove the site entirely will be difficult. The genie is out of the bottle.
ETA: So, Sarah Palin writes on Twitter (or more accurately, her ghost-Twitterer):
“Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book “America by Heart” from being leaked,but US Govt can’t stop Wikileaks’ treasonous act?”
Let’s see here. So, she doesn’t know that her action was a copyright suit, and that it is much easier to stop book publication infringement from identified sources. She doesn’t seem to understand either that Wikileaks is not hosted in the United States.