A federal judge in San Francisco ordered Web-hosting company Dynadot to pull the plug on Wikileaks today, a site created for goverment and corporate whistleblowes with documents “that the world needs to see.” The judge handed down the permanent injunction after a Cayman Islands bank sued when company documents appeared on the site. The federal judge’s move, of course, doesn’t actually delete Wikileaks, which was designed to withstand court-ordered shutdowns. The site — reportedly started by a group of international political dissidents, mathematicians and journalists — is still accessible via its IP address and mirror sites.
What Judge Jeffrey S. White’s decision does do is raise an important legal question. As NY Times’ Adam Liptak points out right off the bat, this case is a “major test of First Amendment rights in the Internet era.” Liptak reports that court orders restricting the desemination of specific pieces of information “are disfavored under the First Amendment and almost never survive appellate scrutiny.” Nevermind shutting down an ENTIRE site. Way to err on the side of caution, Judge White.