The biggest social-networking site in the world broke with many of its online brethren today when it issued a statement saying that it will not ban content from a "fan page" associated with WikiLeaks, the controversial repository of leaked confidential documents whose founder, Julian Assange, is currently on the run.
"The WikiLeaks Facebook Page does not violate our content standards nor have we encountered any material posted on the page that violates our policies," said the statement, which was prepared when ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick started poking around to see which online services may follow the lead of Amazon Web Services and PayPal in blocking WikiLeaks. It's a well-crafted statement, however, one that leaves open the possibility Facebook could change course. All it's saying right now is that Facebook does not currently believe WikiLeaks has posted content to its page that violates the social network's terms of service.
Facebook's handling of whether to block controversial and potentially harmful content from its servers has not been without criticism: it has opted not to ban groups pertaining to Holocaust denial, for example, claiming that while it finds Holocaust denial "repulsive and ignorant," the groups are allowed to stay on the social network if they do not contain illegal material. WikiLeaks, obviously, is a different and far more complicated matter entirely. Many believe Assange could have blood on his hands for leaking documents that could put the U.S. or its allies in danger overseas, and the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has said he wants WikiLeaks listed as a terrorist organization. However, Assange has also become a hero for free-speech and government transparency advocates.
It's a status that has only been elevated since the recent WikiLeaks document releases and the subsequent attempts by corporations and lawmakers to stop Assange. The WikiLeaks page on Facebook has nearly 1 million followers.