Wikileaks.org, a site that allowed people to anonymously leak incriminating documents, has been shut down by its web host, Dynadot. Dynadot, shut it down and locked the domain name so it can’t be transferred to another host, pursuant to an agreement settling a lawsuit against it.
Someone posted documents on the site claimed to show that a bank in the Cayman Islands was engaged in money laundering and tax evasion. Julius Baer, the parent company of the accused bank brought a lawsuit against Dynadot after unsuccessfully trying to get the site to remove the documents.
Instead of defending itself in the lawsuit, Dynadot decided it was easier to shut down the site. But this I think is even more interesting: Dynadot is turning over information about Wikileaks, including IP addresses and information associated with the site.
Wikileaks promised anonymity to those posting evidence on the site, but that’s now in jeopardy since the web host is offering up any and all information.
What exactly is Wikileaks? Here’s how it’s described in a Google cache of the site:
Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis. Our primary interests are in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we expect to be of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact…
And here’s how The Register describes the site:
Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by people from a host of countries, including the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. It has generated headlines by hosting documents exposing several high-profile scandals, including those related to the collapse of the UK’s Northern Rock bank and to prisons in Iraq and and Guantanamo Bay. The site says it has posted more than 1.2 million documents.
Obviously, the information really is “censorable” if the web host is going to roll over like this. It’s clear that suing the web host can be an easy tactic… why would the hosting company spend money to defend a suit like this when it’s easier and cheaper to just give up the goods on their customers.
But I think this exposes a huge flaw in the system. The web host has all the information, yet has no vested interest in fighting to keep it secret. It’s clear that the owners of websites can’t count on their hosting companies to protect their confidential information.
The site isn’t completely silenced, however. This applies only to the U.S. company that was hosting the U.S. arm of the site. The documents that Julius Baer sued over can still be found on Wikileaks sites hosted in other countries, like Belgium and India.
I think this case has implications for anyone running a website in the U.S. and they better take notice of what is going to be protected (or not) by their web host.