Stephen Baker

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Newsweek, Wikileaks, and cloud computing

December 4, 2010News

Anyone interested in press freedom should take a read of Joseph Galarneau's essay about Wikileaks and cloud computing. (ex Jay Rosen) Galarneau is the chief operating officer of Newsweek, which runs its digital content from the same Amazon service that hosted Wikileaks--and which shut Wikileaks down last week.

As media becomes more and more of an online enterprise, the cloud companies like Amazon will increasingly fill the role of the printing press. But as Galarneau points out, they have different legal liabilities:

First, it’s important to understand that Amazon is delivering a commercial service and isn’t bound by free-speech protections that apply to the actions of governments, according to First Amendment attorney Michael Bamberger, a partner at law firm SNR Denton. If you don’t want to be subject to their rules, don’t use their services and don’t sign their contract.

Companies like Newsweek can negotiate their own guarantees with a cloud provider, but smaller fry might get caught up in the same rules that are there, legitimately, to deal with the other scourges that cloud providers have to look out for: money-launderers, child pornography, terror networks, etc. They're all moving to the cloud. Publishers didn't mingle with such company in the days of printing presses. But that's changing.

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Those new to cloud computing might wonder why a company like Newsweek would run its Web business on Amazon's computers. It has to do with efficiency. In the early days of electricity, companies ran their own generators. It wasn't efficient, and gradually, about a century ago, they switched to specialists in electricity, and moved onto the grid. That's what's happening now in computing. A good primer on the trend is Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch. At about the same time, in '07, I wrote a BusinessWeek cover story on cloud computing, focusing on Google.

Below: Google's Christophe Bisciglia (who since left)


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