""The private sector can do things and get away with things that would be unconstitutional if done by the government," said Lawrence Soley, a Marquette University professor of communications. "I believe that corporate censorship is as much, if not more, of a danger to free speech than the government," he said."
""None of those companies want to be singled out for helping undermine American national security," said Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, an organization that aims to promote democratic expression and human rights on the Internet. "It shows a lack of independence and an attempt to curry favor."
Some are calling it corporate censorship, and comments from PayPal and a software provider added to concerns about the role played by Washington.
Companies such as credit card providers and Amazon are not obliged to provide services beyond the terms of their WikiLeaks contract, legal experts say. While contract terms are private, experts said the companies were likely well within their rights."
"Legal specialists voiced concerns about the government's ability to lean on companies such as MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, which handle the bulk of donations to an Internet-based operation such as WikiLeaks.
"Government censorship by a wink or raised eyebrow can be as serious as outright prohibitions. Particularly where a critical facility is at issue," said Diane Zimmerman, a professor at New York University School of Law.
But Zimmerman and others questioned whether a request, even if from the White House, amounted to censorship if it is not backed by a threat.
Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the risks of angering Washington can be high. Companies often need regulatory approval for mergers and laws regarding privacy, online advertising, sales tax and Internet access can have a big effect on the companies.
"Government censorship is still worse because the government has the ability to criminally prosecute you and take away your freedom," said David Hudson of the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. "The looming issue is whether there is any push to prosecute (WikiLeaks) under the Espionage Act. That is the million-dollar question.""
Reuters - WikiLeaks shows reach and limits of Internet speech
This is the way it is. We all know that media outlets can refuse to run ads and refuse to cover events. That's how the system is rigged. That is why the internet is such an important free space. And that is why the oligarchs are responding the way they are.
Arrests are already being made against participants in anonymous' efforts. Denial of Service attacks are still illegal.
I suspect throwing tea in the harbour in Boston was illegal as well.