This story suggests that a senator was able to coerce Amazon Web Services into dropping a paying customer (Wikileaks), without any legal due process.
Amazon refutes this, and claims that the decision was their own, because the customer violated the AWS terms of service.
From Amazon’s message, it seems like Wikileaks is in violation of the TOS:
It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. 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.
The trouble is, Wikileaks has not actually been charged with or convicted of a crime, and the potential long-term effects of the leak are debatable, so these terms of service are fairly subjective. The whole idea of Wikileaks is, of course, controversial. The problem is that Amazon’s action feels like an activist action – like the Wikileaks service was suspended because Amazon doesn’t like them.
For those of us building a business based on the AWS Infrastructure as a Service model, this is very scary. The one thing that we can count on with our own servers is that they don’t judge our content. We don’t have to convince our disk drives that our cause is just, and our moral compass is intact. Whether AWS responded to pressure from Joe Lieberman or acted on their own doesn’t really matter. The message is that if AWS thinks you are up to something fishy, their policy is to drop your service first, and ask questions later.
When I am looking at a business plan, I worry about technology risk, market risk, and execution risk. Normally, I would think that building a business on top of a cloud platform like AWS would dramatically reduce the execution risk, but now I have to worry about the risk that Amazon won’t like what I am doing. Amazon has been leading the cloud computing charge, and has been saying every step of the way “don’t worry, you can trust us”. I think banning Wikileaks was a giant step backwards in their credibility as a utility partner.