Column

Amazon Web Services should speak up on WikiLeaks

Carl Brooks, Senior Technology Writer

Weekly cloud computing update

Amazon Web Services isn't known for avoiding the truth; it makes frank, reliable and brief statements when it has to. The company is currently choosing to keep quiet on its involvement in the WikiLeaks drama, but this particular stretch of silence might do more harm than good.

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered a bizarre operational outage after being struck by lightning, I received an interview with Adam Selipsky, the company's vice president of Web services, that largely helped dispel the perception that Amazon was over its head in operations.

Was it a business decision? Was WikiLeaks a bad customer? Or was it a matter of policy?

 

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When a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack on one of its customers blew up, I talked to Peter DeSantis, general manager of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), who explained in some detail how AWS is capable of casually absorbing the largest DDOS attacks with ease. He also discussed how Amazon's customers could protect themselves, which is certainly very useful information.

And now would be a great time for Amazon to open up again and set the record straight. Public sentiment is running hot against the company for what looks like capitulation; WikiLeaks is unscrupulously making hay over the supposed betrayal. Meanwhile, Senator Joe Lieberman is pretending he's in charge and a finger waggle is enough to make a $28 billion-dollar business sit up and beg.

Silence from AWS is costing the company dearly in both prestige and reputation. Who or what will they kick off next? Nobody knows, and that can't be good for business.

What Amazon can (and should) say
Any statement would clear the air. If Amazon feels that the company shouldn't be embroiled in political controversy, that is perfectly valid; just draw the line and let us know where it is. We will all pick another vendor if we are planning on being publicity-grubbing polemicists.

Was it a business decision? Was WikiLeaks a bad customer? Or was it a matter of policy? I'd "get it" if Amazon decides that customers that attract DDOS attacks are an unacceptable risk. Hell, if I were a customer that wished to avoid another user's drama, I'd be encouraged by that.

This particular stretch of silence might do [Amazon] more harm than good.

 

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Did WikiLeaks actually violate the Terms of Service (TOS)? Again, this would be perfectly valid, but we should know about it. Wondering exactly what the rules are will not attract customers in droves.

In fact, this whole situation is something we've seen before. When Web hosting and domain services started to take off in the 1990s, we saw this happen over and over. Controversial content and websites were pulled by providers, moved around, banned and courted in some cases (notoriety is a business plan). Generally, this was followed by an uproar.

The end result was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which demarcated the responsibility of content creators and service providers and cleared the air. This WikiLeaks/Amazon Web Services story could be a indication that we're all going to rehash that lovely experience and stall public cloud in a backwater for years.

So make a statement, Amazon. Anything will do. Some will like it, some won't, but at this point, it'd just be good for business.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at cbrooks@techtarget.com.