Earlier this week, Amazon pulled the plug on the files it was paid to host for Wikileaks. Explaining the rationale for their move, Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener told The Wall Street Journal...
that Amazon's terms of service also require that content "will not cause injury to any person or entity." Yet he said "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."
Putting people in jeopardy? Content not causing injury? Well, take a gander at some of the books that Amazon happily sells after the jump.
• The Anarchist Cookbook, which among other things contains information on how to make homemade C-4 and hand grenades.
• Improvised Munitions Black Book Vol. 1, which purports to be the product of U.S. government researchers, detailing the production of homemade explosives and firearms.
• Zips, Pipes, And Pens: Arsenal Of Improvised Weapons, featuring "rare photos of remarkably ingenious and very deadly improvised weapons made by guerrillas, secret agents, criminals and freedom fighters, all collected from prisons, police departments and Third World countries." (Naturally, it's "for information purposes only.")
• The Do It Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook, "Learn how to make gunpowder from such items as dead cats, whiskey, your living room ceiling, manure and maple syrup with simple hand tools and techniques that have been used for centuries. This is a practical and safe approach to making the oldest propellant/explosive known." Of course, it’s "for information purposes only."
• Get Even: The Complete Book Of Dirty Tricks, said to be "a hilarious overview of the methods people use to get even with big business, government and enemies. These dirty tricks range from the simple to the elaborate, including more sophisticated schemes devised by CIA and Mafia members and political dirty tricksters." Again, naturally, it's "for entertainment purposes only."
• High Tech Harrassment: How to Get Even With Anybody Any Time, which will help you "arness the forces of science and technology to bypass computer passwords, beat ATM bank machines, wreak havoc with magnets, spread terror with lasers, detect computer viruses and more." Again, it’s "for information purposes only."
And that’s just for starters. You can also find on Amazon what appear to be Department of Defense manuals for boobytraps, guerilla warfare and Special Forces, and explosives and demolition.
Now, let me hasten to say that Amazon should not censor any of these books, nor any others. Their role is not to be a censor, but an intermediary for goods and knowledge. And these texts can in fact be purchased "for information purposes"—that is, for journalistic research, for entertainment, for curiosity, by inventors, and for many other reasons which don’t involve hurting people.
The point is that Amazon is perfectly comfortable selling such information which could much more readily and directly cause "injury" and put "innocent people" in jeopardy than anything Wikileaks has disclosed. The supposed standards behind their corporate policies are clearly far more flexible and inconsistent than their p.r. flacks would have us believe.
This list provides just one more demonstration of the political pressures and motivations behind Amazon’s yanking of the electronic rug out from Wikileaks.