Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Sandi Mappic, Esmeralda Swartz, Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Java, XML, ColdFusion, Websphere, Open Source, Open Web

SOA & WOA: Blog Post

Opinion: Who Made Amazon the Judge of What's Legal on the Web?

The COO of Newsweek and general manager of Newsweek Digital speaks out

[This post originally appeared on Joseph Galarneau's blog and is republished here in Cloud Computing Journal (www.CloudComputingJournal.com) by kind permission of the author.]

When you visit Newsweek.com, the words you read started their journey milliseconds earlier from an Amazon.com datacenter somewhere in northern Virginia. And if you visited Wikileaks.org earlier this week, the bytes comprising leaked U.S. embassy cables would have traveled a similar path from Amazon servers based in northern California or Ireland.

While WikiLeaks and Newsweek are very different organizations, we both relied on the 21st century equivalent of the printing press – cloud computing – to distribute our information. Amazon shut off WikiLeaks servers Wednesday, citing the company’s violation of Amazon rules, coincidentally at the same time government officials called for similar action for different reasons. For now, the site is hosted in Sweden by another company. Another part of WikiLeak’s technology – its domain name servers -- came under attack by hackers a day later, prompting another provider to cancel WikiLeak’s account and forcing the company to use a Swiss DNS provider.

The power of the press can be dramatically limited when the power to the press is disconnected. Outside the newspaper industry, few publishers actually own their own printing presses. U.S. courts rarely exercise prior restraint (orders that prohibit publication), and most printers rely on their customers to shoulder the legal liability if there are disputes. But as Amazon’s silencing of WikiLeaks demonstrates, the rules can change when media companies move on to the Internet, with its very different methods of publishing.

Nearly five years ago, Amazon popularized cloud computing by launching Amazon Web Services (AWS) to leverage the technology expertise gained by building its mammoth e-commerce website. In a matter of minutes, anyone with a credit card can visit the AWS website to rent time on Amazon servers, use storage on their disk drives, or select from an array of other high-tech services. Catering to hobbyist hackers and Global 2000 IT departments alike, AWS is now estimated to generate more than $500 million from hundreds of thousands of customers, according to industry analyst Kamesh Pemmaraju, director of cloud research at the SandHill Group.

The cloud computing business model, which permits customers to rent servers for as low as 2 cents per hour, has allowed countless dot-coms to avoid spending millions in start-up costs. Media companies have been similarly intrigued by these pay-as-you-go services, which are also offered by IBM and Microsoft, among others. At Newsweek, we started using AWS in late 2009 and moved all of our web operations to Amazon last May when the website launched a new design and content management system. As one of the first major publishers to go “all in” on the cloud, we have been very pleased with Amazon’s technology and service: Newsweek has experienced significant technology savings and is able to more easily accommodate large spikes in traffic that accompany major news events. (Full disclosure: I have spoken about Newsweek’s experiences at two Amazon-sponsored conferences this year and recently met with Amazon senior management. Additionally, Newsweek’s legal agreements and private discussions with Amazon are covered by a non-disclosure agreement).

But as part of Newsweek’s journey to the cloud, we thought about the same issue that tripped up WikiLeaks. In its 77-year history, the magazine has often published confidential or leaked government information. Amazon’s publicly available contract with AWS customers, which WikiLeaks likely agreed to, states that Amazon can turn off a website if “we receive notice or we otherwise determine, in our sole discretion” that a website is illegal, “has become impractical or unfeasible for any legal or regulatory reason … (or) might be libelous or defamatory or otherwise malicious, illegal or harmful to any person or entity.” Has Amazon anointed itself as judge, jury and executioner in matters of regulating content on its services?

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. Amazon and its peers have legitimate business reasons for shutting down websites: many nefarious types use their services for spam, child pornography, hacking, and pirating activities. Not only are these activities illegal, but many threaten the integrity of the services delivered to other law-abiding cloud customers.

In Amazon’s statement on the WikiLeaks incident, posted on its website Thursday, said “our terms of service state that ‘you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.’ It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy.”

But should there be anything for cloud computing companies to fear? Federal law doesn’t hold hosting providers liable for information-related crimes committed by their users, no more so than a phone carrier would be subject to legal action due to a customer making a harassing call. There are gray areas untested by caselaw, Bamberger added. “If the posting is a criminal act, which the WikiLeaks materials may be given the claimed national security implications,” he said, “the service may have a legitimate fear of being charged with aiding and abetting despite federal law.”

Newsweek, like many news organizations, extensively reviews its content prior to publication to ensure accuracy and adherence to the law. Editors take these duties seriously, given that our stories reach nearly 20 million people in print and 10 million online around the world each month. Even so, some people, companies and governments aren’t thrilled when they appear on Newsweek’s print and digital pages, and they rarely keep their discontent to themselves. Protests range from letters to the editor to lawsuits, with a variety of non-legal responses in between. Calling Newsweek’s printers and asking them to stop the presses would have little effect: our agreements with vendors make Newsweek solely responsible for what is printed.

Ultimately with Amazon, we agreed on mutually acceptable terms that would protect our editorial independence and ability to publish controversial information. Other media executives who use cloud computing have told me they baked in similar protections into their contracts. But Newsweek is an established media company that has more clout and resources than the average start-up. How would the next incarnation of the Pentagon Papers be handled if it were published by a lone blogger instead of The New York Times?

“Technology has changed a lot,” Bamberger said, “and it’s really hard to tell who is the press today. That whole issue is very amorphous.

The opinions expressed here are solely the author's and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Harman Newsweek LLC.

More Stories By Joseph Galarneau

Joseph Galarneau (@jdgalarneau), a former journalist, is COO of Newsweek and GM of Newsweek Digital. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Harman Newsweek LLC.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Compute virtualization has been transformational, yet security policy implementation and enforcement has lagged behind in agility and automation. There are a number of key considerations when implementing policy in private and hybrid clouds. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Holland Barry, VP of Technology at Catbird, will discuss the impact of this new paradigm and what organizations can do today to safely move to software-defined network and compute architectures, including: How normal ope...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: S...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff hap...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accel...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customiz...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ElasticBox is holding a Hackathon at DevOps Summit, November 6 from 12 pm -4 pm at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. You can enter as an individual or team of up to 10 developers. A New Star Is Born Every Month! All completed ElasticBoxes will then be sent to a judging panel - 12 winners will be featured on the ElasticBox website in 2015. All entrants will receive five full enterprise licenses for one year + ElasticBox headphones + Elasti...
Once the decision has been made to move part or all of a workload to the cloud, a methodology for selecting that workload needs to be established. How do you move to the cloud? What does the discovery, assessment and planning look like? What workloads make sense? Which cloud model makes sense for each workload? What are the considerations for how to select the right cloud model? And how does that fit in with the overall IT tranformation? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, John Hatem, head of V...
Cloud services are the newest tool in the arsenal of IT products in the market today. These cloud services integrate process and tools. In order to use these products effectively, organizations must have a good understanding of themselves and their business requirements. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Brian Lewis, Principal Architect at Verizon Cloud, will outline key areas of organizational focus, and how to formalize an actionable plan when migrating applications and internal services to...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
Ixia develops amazing products so its customers can connect the world. Ixia helps its customers provide an always-on user experience through fast, secure delivery of dynamic connected technologies and services. Through actionable insights that accelerate and secure application and service delivery, Ixia's customers benefit from faster time to market, optimized application performance and higher-quality deployments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calm.io has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of DevOps Summit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calm.io is a cloud orchestration platform for AWS, vCenter, OpenStack, or bare metal, that runs your CL tools puppet, Chef, shell, git, Jenkins, nagios, and will soon support New Relic and Docker. It can run hosted, or on premise and provides VM automation / expiry, self-service portals,...
In her General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing, at Verizon Enterprise, will focus on finding the right mix of renting vs. buying Oracle capacity to scale to meet business demands, and offer validated Oracle database TCO models for Oracle development and testing environments. Anne Plese is a marketing and technology enthusiast/realist with over 19+ years in high tech. At Verizon Enterprise, she focuses on driving growth for the Verizon Cloud pla...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue bu...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce t...
As Platform as a Service (PaaS) matures as a category, developers should have the ability to use the programming language of their choice to build applications and have access to a wide array of services. Bluemix is IBM's open cloud development platform that enables users to easily build cloud-based, creative mobile and web applications without having to spend large amounts of time and resources on configuring infrastructure and multiple software licenses. In this track, you will learn about the...
Blue Box has closed a $10 million Series B financing. The round was led by a strategic investor and included participation from prior investors including Voyager Capital and Founders Collective, as well as the Blue Box executive team. This round follows a $4.3 million Series A closed in December of 2012 and led by Voyager Capital. In May of this year, the company announced general availability of its private cloud as a service offering, Blue Box Cloud. Since that release, the company has dem...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named "Gold Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic network...
SimpleECM is the only platform to offer a powerful combination of enterprise content management (ECM) services, capture solutions, and third-party business services providing simplified integrations and workflow development for solution providers. SimpleECM is opening the market to businesses of all sizes by reinventing the delivery of ECM services. Our APIs make the development of ECM services simple with the use of familiar technologies for a frictionless integration directly into web applicat...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic...