As many of you know, Amazon.com kicked WikiLeaks off its servers on Wednesday. Amazon didn't bother to give WikiLeaks any notice. It just pulled the plug, causing the website to be inaccessible for a few hours.
Amazon made the decision after speaking with Senator Joe Lieberman's office. Evidently Liberman staffers called to ask why Amazon had agreed to host WikiLeaks and whether it had plans to shut the site down. Amazon took the hint and shut the site down within twenty-four hours.
Now I hope you agree that this was a sleazy, cowardly act, and I encourage you to join me in boycotting Amazon. I also encourage you to go here to sign a petition asking that Amazon apologize to WikiLeaks and agree to host the site for free.
Of course, not everyone supports boycotting Amazon. For instance, Lew Rockwell writes on his blog:
As we know, Senator Joe Evilman threatened Amazon with destruction–and he is a very powerful henchman–if the company continued to offer server space to WikiLeaks. Amazon complied, and the company had no other choice. It is public firm; the managers may not risk the stockholders’ money in this way. Indeed, Amazon is a victim of US fascism, not a willing enabler.Nothing against Lew, but his reasoning here is ridiculous. First, it's simply not true that Amazon "had no other choice." It obviously had a choice. There was no court order demanding that Amazon drop WikiLeaks. Federal troops weren't lining up outside of Amazon's corporate office. Amazon could have said no; it choose to take the easy way out.
Regarding Lew's claim that Amazon "may not risk the stockholders' money in this way," I think that, yes, Amazon does have an obligation to its stockholders, but it also has other moral obligations. Just because a certain action profits one's stockholders, it doesn't follow that that action is right. One can think of numerous examples illustrating this point.
If I ran Amazon, I would have informed Lieberman's staffers that they need to go read the First Amendment, as well as the 1971 Supreme Court case New York Times vs. United States. Then I would have notified my stockholders of my decision. If they wanted to sell their stocks, then they could do so; nothing would be forcing them to stay.
Doing the right thing is difficult. And it's often unprofitable. But what's that have to do with anything?
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UPDATE, 12/04/10: See also Boycott Amazon.com (Part 2)
UPDATE, 3/12/11: Alternatives to Amazon.com: