Judge Vacates Order Shutting Down Website

An ineffectual order purporting to shut down the website Wikileaks has been vacated by the judge who imposed it. The judge who entered the order apparently realized that the First Amendment prohibits a court from shutting down an entire media outlet simply because it published information that was arguably private.

On Feb. 15, the judge, Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, ordered the American address of the site, Wikileaks.org, to be disabled at the request of Bank Julius Baer & Company, a Swiss banking company, and its Cayman Islands subsidiary. They charged that Wikileaks had posted confidential, personally identifiable account information on some of the bank’s customers. ... In reversing himself at a hearing here on Friday, Judge White acknowledged that the bank’s request posed serious First Amendment questions and might constitute unjustified prior restraint.

Apart from his belated recognition of the First Amendment, Judge White expressed frustration that the site is mirrored elsewhere, effectively rendering his order a nullity. If anything, the publicity that followed the court's ruling probably sent many more readers to the site than it had before the court acted. [More...]

[Judge White] appeared visibly frustrated that technology might have outrun the law and that, as a result, the court might not be able to rein in information once it had been disclosed online. "We live in an age,” Judge White said, “when people can do some good things and people can do some terrible things without accountability necessarily in a court of law.”

Technology aside, in what age has that not been true, Judge White?

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    HAahaha (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 01:25:26 PM EST
    Good question! Guess he is trying to save face.

    The image of (none / 0) (#2)
    by reynwrap582 on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 01:53:29 PM EST
    Him getting visibly frustrated at the internet gives me a bit of a giggle.  Anyway, yeah, that's the thing about information in any age.  You don't even need the internet, or a printing press, or stone tablets, all you need is a language or some other abstract way of communicating.  Information can be duplicated infinitely with almost no effort.

    I'm still completely and utterly shocked at the original decision though, vacated or not.

    the law of unintended (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:13:26 PM EST
    consequences. make something taboo, and it immediately draws a crowd. the chinese have been finding this out the hard way; once that train leaves the station, it can't be pulled back.

    judge white must be living in a cave, to have seriously thought his order would have any actual effect on the continued transmission of this data. oh, and that pesky first amendment thing.

    i note as well, he finally conceded the very real possibility that US courts may have no jurisdiction, since it doesn't appear this site has any physical connection to the US. you'd think he'd have inquired within, before he issued his original order, not afterwards.