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Making Sense of the Wikileaks Fiasco: Prior Restraints in the Internet Age

Citizen Media Law Project Director David Ardia is quoted in today's New York Times, saying that a judge's order to shutdown the WikiLeaks website by removing its DNS record, “is clearly not constitutional...There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.” You can read developments and keep up on this story via the Citizen Media Law Project's Julius Baer Bank and Trust v. Wikileaks entry in their Legal Threats Database.  The Talking Points Memo has more on the story, and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and many others (e.g., The Guardian) are following the story as well.

Berkman co-founder Jonathan Zittrain writes:

Wikileaks is a set of strategically placed wikis around the world. It’s designed to accept leaked documents, generally from anonymous dissidents around the world, and to get them into circulation.

A Cayman Island bank and its Swiss parent company filed for an emergency restraining order in a California court asking the registrar for wikileaks.org to change its entry in the .org registry so that people can no longer get to the corresponding IP address for Wikileaks. It worked: trying to visit wikileaks.org results in a page not found, even though the server that is its destination is presumably still up and running.

The details are still coming in, and there’s a very lucid summary by my colleagues at the Citizen Media Law Project. The initial injunction was not even fashioned as a temporary restraining order, which is puzzling since no one from Wikileaks was even there to argue its case. (It also seems to order anyone who reads the order not to leak to any of the documents — I wonder if my telling you that means you already are as good as bound by the court, at least if you’re in California.) An amended injunction has already been filed, and a fuller hearing will be held soon.

In the meantime, the other Wikileaks sites remain up with the documents and with everything else.

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Digital Media Law Project

Founded in 2007 as the "Citizen Media Law Project," the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP) works to ensure that individuals and organizations involved in online journalism and… More