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Lieberman Strikes Again Against Wikileaks' Web

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 2 2010

Wikileaks had been using Tableau's hosted charting software to display visualization of the State Department cables. The company now says that it removed the charts in response to Senator Joe Lieberman's public request.

Tableau, the Seattle-based data visualization company that had been hosting Wikileaks charts showing different visualizations of the State Department cables , is saying this afternoon that it took down the charts at Senator Joe Lieberman's request:

Wednesday afternoon, Tableau Software removed data visualizations published by WikiLeaks to Tableau Public. We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly.

We created Tableau Public—a free service that enables anyone to make interactive graphs from their data and share them online—because we recognized the need for strong analytics tools in a data-driven world. Given the controversy around the WikiLeaks data, we’ve closely followed the debate about who actually has the rights to the leaked data.

Our terms of service require that people using Tableau Public do not upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not solely have the right to make available. Furthermore, if we receive a complaint about a particular set of data, we retain the right to investigate the situation and remove any offending data, if necessary.

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

This will inevitably be met with mixed reaction. However, our terms of service were created to ensure responsible use of data.

Yesterday, Lieberman asked Amazon to kick Wikileaks.org off of its servers, and that company, too, complied.

Tableau's company history explains that the firm spun out of a U.S. Defense Department data viz project.

And more: It looks like Tableau had noted on its company blog back on Sunday that "Wikileaks is using Tableau to show the breadth of the data by subject, country, origin and classification, organization, program and topic," but that post has been scrubbed from TableauSoftware.com. Google cache, however, doesn't forget.

And still more: Here's the text of Joe Lieberman's public call for companies to sever ties with Wikileaks that's mentioned above and which reads in part, "I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company – whether American or foreign – should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials."

And even more: Amazon's out with a statement saying that it wasn't Joe Lieberman's urging that got Wikileaks pulled from its servers, but rather the site's alleged violations of the company's terms of service. This is a fuzzy business right here; it's not like there's necessarily a direct cause and effect at work. But clearly Amazon's going a different route than Tableau, taking pains to tell people that they made their decision independent of the urgings of a powerful United States senator.

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