I'm a veteran of many free speech campaigns on the Internet dating back to the Communication Decency Act in 1996. I've been around this block many times. So when people say "I thought we were boycotting Amazon for their treatment of WikiLeaks" when I posted a link to Amazon's new programmable DNS feature (which I've been waiting for, thanks) I see it all coming around again.
First, there certainly are things worth going to the mat for. But this is not one of them. For a variety of reasons.
First, if I were in Amazon's shoes, and I have been, I'm not sure I wouldn't have done exactly what they did. They're running a business, not a government. They aren't the guarantors of anyone's rights, that's the government's job. There are plenty of choices for web hosting besides Amazon. And because they charge money for their services, they guarantee that there will always be. If Twitter had shut them off, that would be serious, because their pricing model, and lack of federation, more or less cuts off competition. There it would be really chilling. Here, not even slightly chilling.
And when I make a principled stand, I tend to stick by it. For example, I was a vocal critic of Twitter's Suggested Users List. When they put me on the list, I had to request to be removed. Painful thing to do, because millions of followers, like it or not, have huge PR value. No matter, I had put my stake in the ground.
I boycotted Amazon once before, for the one-click patent. It was when I learned that other open tech advocates were using (and loving) Amazon, years after I quit, that I realized my stand was pointless. I wasn't making a statement any longer, I was just cutting myself off from a convenient service.
We don't know all the facts about WikiLeaks. I see the press taking their side of the story and publishing it as fact. So maybe people who want a boycott are being misled. Maybe WikiLeaks didn't have to go to Amazon, maybe the DOS attack isn't severe. We don't know. I see, in WikiLeaks, a man and an organization that is very good at manipulating the public. They're not alone in that, the Republicans are good at it too, as are the North Koreans and Al Qaeda. Being good at manipulating us isn't good or bad. But then you have to ask "Do they really need my help?" And do they need it this way? And will everyone feel so strongly about boycotting Amazon in a couple of weeks, or will we all go back to business as usual?