Amazon: WikiLeaks Ousted From Cloud Computing Service Over Policy Violation

Amazon Web Services this week said it was a policy violation and not pleas from a U.S. Congressman that led it to remove WikiLeaks, the controversial government secret whistleblower Web site, from its cloud computing service.

"Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis," Amazon Web Services wrote in a statement about removing WikiLeaks from its cloud computing service. "AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them."

Earlier this month, WikiLeaks moved its data to Amazon's cloud computing service after a new WikiLeaks Web site showcasing classified U.S. diplomatic cables was knocked out of commission by a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The move to Amazon's cloud computing service put some of the WikiLeaks data on Amazon servers in the U.S. Even after the move, WikiLeaks continued to fight a hail of DDoS attacks.

AWS came under fire for hosting WikiLeaks' data on its cloud computing service. Amazon removed WikiLeaks' data from its cloud computing service just days later, prompting a string of angry tweets from WikiLeaks' official Twitter feed. "WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free -- fine our [dollars] are now spent to employ people in Europe," WikiLeaks posted on Twitter, later adding, "If Amazon [executives] are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books."

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Original reports indicated that Amazon removed WikiLeaks from its cloud computing service at the request of Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose office contacted Amazon and asked the cloud provider to sever its ties with the controversial Web site.

"There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer," AWS wrote in the statement. "That is inaccurate."

AWS also refuted reports that DDoS attacks lead to it pulling the plug on WikiLeaks.

"There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate," AWS said in the statement. "There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against."

Amazon said that WikiLeaks violated several terms of its service, including owning and controlling the data and the rights to the data that customers store and secure using the AWS cloud computing service. Amazon said its terms of service state that "you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content … that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity."

"It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," AWS said. "Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments."

Amazon said AWS has been running for more than four years and has hundreds of thousands of customers storing different kinds of data on its cloud computing service. Some of that data, Amazon said, is controversial, and Amazon is okay with that.

"But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere," Amazon said.