Another Apple Falls From the WikiLeaks Tree

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However, when a takedown is justified on the grounds that a government official said the content is illegal, it is right to be alarmed. You don't have to side with WikiLeaks to see the dangers ahead.

It may be expedient for companies today to fall in line with the U.S. government and protect their brand against the taint of an unpleasant controversy, but giving in to such pressures will surely make it more difficult for companies to be on the right side of free expression tomorrow.

Companies now exercise broad control over the platforms and tools that facilitate speech online. When they develop terms of service or apply them to controversial content, they should not ignore the public's right to know and the broader free speech implications of their actions.

As companies seek to protect their brands, it is critical that they also consider the impact of their actions on the core values of freedom of speech and access to information.

WikiLeaks has proven it can hold center stage of the global theater. It is unlikely to disappear, even in the face of great government pressure. But a lone whistle-blower, a critic without a broader network, or a dissident in a repressive country, may not have WikiLeaks' ability to switch to alternative online outlets. And in that scenario, important political speech may be suppressed forever.

Leslie Harris is president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

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