The right to leak information

An Internet site featuring leaked documents is the center of a free speech battle.

The advent of the Internet brought with it countless new legal challenges and unprecedented issues, such as the document-leaking Web site, Wikileaks. The site is a relatively new, low-profile site that strives to be a central point for inside leaks from business and government sources. The idea is intriguing considering the vast array of unseen documents that could end up on its pages; documents that could be of massive interest to the public. The fun, however, came to an end last month when a judge ordered the site to be closed down in the wake of a pending lawsuit.

The whole situation started when Julius Baer, a Swiss bank, brought a lawsuit against the Web site for publishing a leaked document about the bank’s money laundering and tax evasion in the Cayman Islands.

The complicated nature of this free speech issue was highlighted late last week. The judge for the case reversed his previous order to shut down the site and allowed Wikileaks to resume operations.

Shutting down the site appears to be a violation of free speech. The site should have the right to act as a forum for ideas, even if they are sensitive documents. Preventing the site from operating based on one company’s lawsuit is not right, and individuals should also be free to visit the site’s other offerings.

In this case, Julius Baer should seek legal action against the former employee who leaked the document; that’s where the fault lies. But again, this only proves how the Internet has complicated matters. Wikileaks is only acting as a forum. Should the site take sole responsibility for the content that ends up on its pages? At other sites, such as YouTube, monitoring illegal content has become the responsibility of the Web site operator, not the users. The outcome of this legal battle could have some interesting ramifications for the Internet community. In the meantime, Wikileaks is a fascinating concept that could offer many important tidbits to the public that previously would have gone unnoticed. We hope Wikileaks realizes this potential and is granted some degree of protection for freedom of speech before the courts shut it down for good.