A New York Times Bits blog post has some parts of the technology world buzzing– and not exclusively in a good way. In the post, entitled “A Call to Take Back the Internet From Corporations,” NYT author Jennifer 8. Lee profiles a speech by Rebecca MacKinnon, an Internet scholar at the New America Foundation, urging Internet users to push back on Internet firms like the English pushed back on King John via the Magna Carta.
But the piece is not grabbing attention merely because it compares an urged expansion of government power to one of history’s leading efforts to constrain government. In addition, the post just so happens to echo several grievances of Wikileaks, relating to Internet firms’ decisions to “constrain” (in Lee’s words) the organization:
Several companies constrained WikiLeaks, including Amazon, which kicked WikiLeaks off its servers after pressure from American lawmakers; PayPal, which suspended WikiLeaks’ account; and credit card companies, which refused to take donations for it.
Governments at this point rarely act directly to constrain the Internet; instead, their policies are mediated through privately owned and operated services, Ms. MacKinnon said.
Lee, it just so happens, has “been assisting” Wikileaks with their PR and social media strategy. Last year, after some back-and-forth, she admitted to the Columbia Journalism Review that she had helped Wikileaks roll out video of a 2007 missile strike on a van in Baghdad.
Eyebrow raising, to say the least.