EFF, ACLU say Wikileaks shutdown harms First Amendment rights

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed motions in a federal court in San Francisco to overturn a decision that disabled Wikileaks' primary domain name.

A permanent injunction was imposed which disabled wikileaks.org, and prevented its transfer to any other registrar. This followed a lawsuit by Swiss bank Julius Baer which accused the site of posting the personal transactions of its customers.

The groups said that the issue of an employee's violation of company confidentiality was a private one, and should not have warranted the full shutdown of Wikileaks.

In arguing the point, both groups brought up the site's history of exposing human rights abuses in China and political corruption in Kenya. The basic premise of the site is to allow third-parties to post documents which they believe expose wrongdoing.

Of Julius Baer's claims of wrongdoing, EFF senior attorney Matt Zimmerman had the following statement: "The First Amendment rights of readers who have a legitimate interest in the materials posted on the website simply cannot be treated as acceptable collateral damage to the bank's claims."

The EFF seemed to suggest that Wikileaks' host, Dynadot (who was also named in the original suit), had capitulated to the Swiss bank's demands in order to escape any legal claims.

In addition, the effort is getting support from traditional media -- many of which equate the order to shutting down a newspaper over a single controversial article.

The permanent injunction only affects Dynadot, while a temporary restraining order has been filed against Wikileaks on the specific documents. The judge in the matter has scheduled a hearing for Friday on whether to make the ban permanent.

It is likely that the issues presented by the EFF, ACLU and others will be brought up at that hearing. Users will still be able to access data, but only through the numerical IP address on on mirror sites.

Lawyers for Julius Baer say they intend to file responses to the groups motion shortly.

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