Aussie web hosts shy away from Wikileaks

Wikileaks has been dumped by Amazon and mirrored across the globe as it attempts to spread its whistleblowing message to the masses. But would any web-hosting company in Australia consent to play host to Wikileaks? The answer, so far, appears to be "probably not".
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

Wikileaks has been dumped by Amazon and mirrored across the globe as it attempts to spread its whistleblowing message to the masses. But would any web-hosting company in Australia consent to play host to Wikileaks? The answer, so far, appears to be "probably not".

Several large Australian web-hosting companies said today they would be unlikely to host the Wikileaks repository if asked to by a customer, for a number of reasons.

Bulletproof Networks has earned a reputation for stability and reliability with its customers. The Australian company hosts several large Australian sites which attract record amounts of traffic — and sometimes controversy.

For example, the hosting provider houses broadband information site Whirlpool, one of Australia's most controversial customer forums. Whirlpool has attracted numerous legal threats over the years, as well as denial-of-service attacks not dissimilar to the attacks that have targeted Wikileaks over the past several weeks as it released 250,000 US diplomatic cables to the public.

Bulletproof Networks director Lorenzo Modesto said his group hadn't been approached, but that he would have to seriously consider ethical, political, commercial and "the most obvious" legal or potentially criminal implications of hosting a Wikileaks mirror for a customer if requested to do so.

"More than $1 billion per annum worth of transactions are served by Bulletproof's mission-critical hosting infrastructure. As such, given potential issues with any number of the above considerations, we would probably kindly refuse, but refer them to another hosting partner like Rackspace," he said. "The issue will be that the commercials required would preclude local public managed cloud hosting without the provider sponsoring it in some way."

Another local web-hosting provider not known to shy away from controversy is Netregistry, run and co-founded by chief executive officer Larry Bloch.

Today, Bloch said that in many ways his sympathies were with the Wikileaks organisation, as he believed in transparency, but he thought the organisation had overstepped the mark in terms of the diplomatic cable release. "For the effective functioning of many sorts of relationships, you do need a bit of diplomatic secrecy," he said.

In addition, the CEO said that typically Netregistry would tend not to make decisions about customers based on the content they wanted to host — as long as it wasn't obviously illegal or unethical.

However, Bloch noted that the Wikileaks case was special, because of the scale of the situation from a technical perspective.

"It'd be suicide to put forward a hosting service other than one that is tailored absolutely to them," he said, noting issues like the denial-of-service attacks could cause "ancillary damage", and that Netregistry wasn't set up for such needs.

"Ultimately, what Wikileaks needs to do to get a permanent hosting service is to be hosted directly on a tier 1 provider — like Telstra," he said, noting such a provider could guarantee more bandwidth than online attackers could block out with denial-of-service attacks. Wikileaks needs "dedicated data links and dedicated facilities", he said, otherwise any hosting provider would be "asking for trouble".

Bloch also said that he didn't want to "go up against the US Government", which had publicly indicated its displeasure with the whistleblowing website. Other hosting providers, such as Macquarie Telecom, which boasts one of the highest-grade hosting facilities in Australia, declined to comment on the issue.

However, at least one organisation is hoping to find an Australian web-hosting company to help keep Wikileaks alive — the local division of international electronic rights political movement the Pirate Party. The Pirate Party Australia yesterday issued a statement noting it had joined its international brethren in mirroring Wikileaks.

"Instead of pursuing Wikileaks at the behest of the US Government, the Australian Government must move to protect Wikileaks and organisations like it, and the important function it provides within the democratic process," said Rodney Serkowski, party president.

"This is about more than Wikileaks, but leaking in general, and its legitimacy in a modern, open democracy. This is a fight for fundamental freedoms on the internet. We will not accept governmental attempts to restrict access to free press and constrain freedom of speech."

Local Pirate Party spokesperson Brendan Molloy clarified the organisation's Wikileaks mirror was currently hosted in Sweden because it already had servers in that country, but was looking to host locally in Australia if possible. "We don't foresee any legal issues by hosting a Wikileaks mirror in Australia," he said.

Whether the Pirate Party Australia can find a local web-hosting company to help Wikileaks with the matter may be another question entirely.

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