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 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.

Comments

Elissa,

Thanks for this explanation. Surely, as you state, this must have been a difficult decision in some ways. You owe it to the growing base of citizen journalists, open data advocates, and Tableau enthusiasts/practitioners to fairly and evenly apply the terms of service by which we all agree when availing ourselves of your generous offer to host our work. The perceived "value" of the the data being shared is something that you do not judge per se, and it is clear that you have not sat in judgment to date. And, the "value" of any data hosted on Tableau Public fails as a criterion of entitlement.

On the other hand, as in this case, it looks like right-to-use flunked the test. So be it. This should not deter anyone from using Tableau Public as a technological tool to advance the public good. In fact, your commitment to contributing to a better world should hearten all your many fans and comfort even the harshest critics of this decision.

As always.

MANY BLESSINGS!
Peace and All Good!
Michael W Cristiani

As always, time shows the truth ...
Still understanding the reason for your poor actions knowing the political pressure existing in your local environment but theres no doubt youre definitely wrong and youre knowing it.
But for sure we imediaely will stop promotion,cooperation and use of services based on people which have shown inacceptable human and moral values.

regards

Can't believe to see such a stupid comment. Politicians who are claimed killers shall be protected, and people who are unveiling it, are out of game.

We stopped using Tableausoftware.
Sorry, your decision is understandable but wrong.

Elissa,

I love the Tableau product - and the concept of Tableau Public is great.
We need Visualizations of government and political actions desperately.

The Supreme Court has ruled that "corporations and foreign agents" may spend
unlimited funds to BUY the People's Government.

The wikileaks in just 1 paper - exposed a political leader transporting $ 52
Million to a Middle Eastern tax haven.

When I first saw - that Tableau was hosting a META DATA representation of the data - I
was proud of Tableau ( yet disappointed by the slow server response ). I'm now
disappointed with Tableau caving to the censorship of a lone Senator.

Our government has been held captive to a PHONY 60 vote rule in the Senate - and Tableau
caved to the voice of 1 questionable human - who has showed a lack of humanity on many issues.
Would you also listen to - and follow - just the word of Michele Bachmann.

The right course of action is to rehost the META DATA - until you receive a court order -
or the Senate/House and President pass a bill into law.

Our nation has the greatest need for Visual Truth thru Tableau Visualizations.

Dean G.

Thank you for making it easy to never use your software again. Companies who are unwilling to support free speech do not receive my support.

A big +1!!

dito

I think tableau was right in no supporting the America-bashing that WikiLeaks is engaging in. WikiLeaks information was clearly stolen, therefore they have no freedom of speech right to publish it. Just as if someone hacked your private online email, let's say, and published a tableau about the contents of your emails. No one squashed free speech.

I'm not even a Tableau user (yet), much less an ardent fan or company stooge. I just believe that some information is best kept private.

I am quite disappointed by this. According to the author, James Ball, the visualizations contained no sensitive data. Of course you have the legal right to stop hosting the data, but what will that accomplish? If he doesn't own a copy of Tableu, he can download a trial and generate PDF's and host elsewhere. But what if something even more interesting was found in the data through the interactive nature of your site, or what if it brought awareness to a particular data point that was public but obscured? I'm saddened to see that Tableau is not principled enough to explore new and interesting data.

Hello, Ryan.

Here we run into a logical dilemma, no? You are quite right that Tableau has a right to host or not host on Tableau Public any material for any reason. Your suggestion of generating PDFs from work done using a Tableau Trial (again, free) is also a great idea, IMHO. But, expecting Tableau to offer up their servers to be pounded at the expense of others who have an equal expectation that there occasionally viewed material is available to their own viewers is a bit puzzling to me. In fact, Tableau offers a service for these heavy use situations, called Tableau Digital. Of course, Tableau Digital is not free, but provides a more robust platform dedicated to a particular high-traffic situation like this one. CBS Sports, which I think uses this service, rightly does not expect Tableau Public authors to suffer at its expense because its content is wildly popular. Surely, those who have an interest in guaranteeing that this material be viewed by the widest possible audience have the means to help out with the reasonable cost and better level of service offered by Tableau Digital.

Arguably, the visualizations, as you stated, "contained no sensitive data", but I wonder if they were fruit of a poisoned tree, and would not be possible without the dubiously obtained material. Back to ends and means, I guess. Oh, and entitlement. What do you think?

Again,

MANY BLESSINGS!
Peace and All Good!
Michael W Cristiani

Hi Michael,

Hello again to you. Elissa didn't claim it was a bandwidth issue, she claimed it was a violation of their TOS. As others have pointed out, that's a rather weak argument, considering the Supreme Court's ruling in Gravel v. United States (the Pentagon Papers case). Wikileaks and the New York Times can publish the data with impunity, so Tableau could too, if they wanted to. Instead, they chose to cave.

Like other commenters, I would much rather work with a company willing to defend and fight for its users.

Tool.

That +1 was for Pugget's comment FYI

I have always used and enjoyed Tableau software. This act of cowardice and capitulation in the face of government censorship makes it impossible for me to use your services with a clear conscience. I'm very disappointed by your decision.

Quite surprised by this explanation. I don't understand the credibility "Senator" Lieberman has with you, since he is a politician, neither a journalist nor scholar who could evaluate it.
As for who has the rights to the data, it is clear that those censoring it want to hide if from the American public. As a member of that public, I feel that we paid for it and we own it.

I'm disappointed. Won't use Tableau Software anymore.

Yes, bow my minions. Bow to the power of oppression and censorship.

Time to start shopping around for new visualization tools. If you can't keep your noses out of your clients' business, then you don't deserve my traffic.

...do not upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not have the right to make available

Sorry, this appeal to your vanilla terms of use is far from getting you off the hook. You can defend this as a business decision if you want but it is not at all clear in what sense Wikileaks does not have the "right to make available" plots that they have made from data provided to them and (at this point) freely published by many media sources all over the Internet and in paper form.

Obviously a business is entitled to make their own business decisions. Just as obviously, consumers and clients will make their own business decisions regarding companies that cave quickly in response to unjustified external political pressures.

Mostly, I think, you are sorry to be exposed as cowards. And you should be.

Cheers,
partialobs

But you did not "receive a complaint" from anyone, according to your post. You heard one politician grandstanding and folded immediately.

@jamesrbuk says "I'm the author of the @tableau visualisations. They weren't directly based on #cablegate data and contained no sensitive info"

Did you do any investigation at all before censoring these visualizations?

When free speech is outlawed, only outlaws will practice free speech.

So you pulled content that has (by now) already appeared in most major daily newspapers in the absence of any specific legal threat?

Well done. The terrorists have already won.

Caving in to some nonsensical statements by a politician shows how much you care about your users. You have just lost me as a user, for good.

Yeah, great! Your company is impressing me for not having the balls to let the truth be what it should be : revealed. We, potential users of your software (as a start-up CEO), are not fed by this speech which tells to cover all things to protect citizens; in fact, they are getting more and more idiot.
France will get aware of the capacities of your great company, thanks for the advertisement.

Surely you don't expect a "mixed reaction" here do you? If you do you are as short sighted as your decision was to pull the content in the first place. Good luck staying in business.

Lieberman is running amok over free speech and freedom of the worldwide web. The more he wants to squelch this stuff the more I want to read it. Shame on you for rolling over so easily.

There was a time where I was proud of US values: Democracy, freedom, justice.

I realize that all these values, unfortunately, have been lost. Within a decade the US became a mockery of a democracy, without freedom of speech and where justice is replaced by the political attempt of staying in power.

Shame on tableausoftware for you decision. US people do not deserve the benefits of the First Amendment any longer, if all it takes is a request by a senator.

This makes you look like underdogs.

You live in the land of the free, yet again you undermine the right to free speech. As the other ones pointed out, it makes you look like cowards.

Free speech is the foundation of a democratic society. When you remove the data based on something which I presume is a form of "copyright" concern, ignoring the aspect of free speech.. Well, let me simply say, you got your priorities wrong.

You get a call from the government urging you not to help. You say "yes sir"?? With this post, you are trying to hide the fact that you were scared shitless.

I urge you to IMMEADIATELY repost the content to your service. If you fail to do so within the next 24 hours, personally I will start buying domains and actively join forums that concerns your software an use my free speech.

This is an intolerable act.

Thanks for the comments, all. We recognize the importance of this dialog.

We absolutely support free speech. We love when people share new and interesting data. That’s why we built Tableau Public.

However we do have terms of use that state a user must have rights to the data they publish. In this situation, that wasn't the case. We didn't make an editorial decision but we do respond to complaints.

Oh, but the poster did have the rights to this data. You absolutely do not support free speech, as your actions have shown.

Can you say any more about how you define "rights to the data they publish?" What specifically do you feel that the wikileaks visualization was violating? Copyright? Trademark? I'm confused.

I am not a lawyer, nor have I consulted with any. But it is not at all clear to me what legal problem you see. And I feel that public discussion and analysis of the wikileaks data, particularly since the cat is out of the bag, is extremely important for our country. I am deeply disappointed with your decision to remove it.

Ms. Fink,

Can you reprint the "complaint" you received in this matter?

Thanks

Dear Ms. Fink,

"However we do have terms of use that state a user must have rights to the data they publish. In this situation, that wasn't the case."

Really? A judge ruled that WikiLeaks didn't have rights to the data they published? That's funny, because from your original post it appeared as though you removed data at the simple request of a politician.

Claiming to "support free speech" after taking the action you did exposes you for what you are, and you should at least have the decency to admit that you will support free speech only up to and until a politician requests that you do otherwise. Well, your actions do say that for you, even if you are loathe to explicitly admit it.

Would it have mattered to you if that politician were named Lieberman, McCarthy, or Goebbels? Really, the effect is the same, and if you don't see that then in a democracy you shouldn't be in the business you are.

Regards,

Phillip Peacock

Stating that the content wasn't in the users right to use is false and slanderous - the author assembled it himself.

"... a user must have rights to the data they publish." So no whistle blowing member of the public exposing corruption,duplicity or human rights abuses by governments, corporations and others should ever knock on your door again? There is quite clearly a public interest issue here which your supine behaviour indicates you have no interest in. Your decision demonstrates where your shallow interests lie!

So who owns the data on how many cables were sent from which country? Oh right, you can't answer that. But you apparently shoot first before asking questions...

1 / the tableau didn't contain any actual data, only a representation of them
2 / as the documents have already been leaked, they are now considered "public domain"
3 / folding on yourselfs when nobody actually asked you anything is, well, ...

4 / you have a business to run and you are the ones hosting and giving hdd, power, cooling and bandwith, so you should be able to do whatever you want. Also this must have brought HUGE traffic, and this is also a cost to your bottom line.
Nevertheless, even if I do understand I cannot really condone. Cool soft, btw...

This is a pathetic cop out.

Elyssa,

WIth all due respect, this issue was settled with the Pentagon Papers decades ago.

The reason people are really upset with Tableau at this point is because there is case law backing up the right to publish the data that every journalist from college can recite.

There are no intellectual property right concerns here, which is what your terms of service was written for. The decision to remove the content, and the language used to justify it, is more in line with a political positioning, especially notable with the reference to Sen. Lieberman.

It's a real shame.
- Ace

Exactly what specific rights should Wikileaks explain that it has to these government documents? How did Tableau assess these rights? According to U.S. law, government documents are not afforded copyright protection. This isn't a stolen MP3 or bootleg Hollywood video. These are official government documents, produced at the expense of taxpayers and voters. Certainly, their classification status is an issue and a potential problem for the leaker, who could face criminal sanctions, but the actual publication of these documents does not seem to run afoul of any current law. And Tableau's decision to pull content that's indirectly tied to these documents just does not make any sense to me.

See here: http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-8copyright.html#312

"We absolutely support free speech." Your actions speak louder then your words. You DO NOT support free speech. Please come up with another flimsy excuse.

On the other hand you need prove the other part isn't the owner. Are you sure of that? Or now you are sure of lies from politics and want to take the same line?
I read above that someone is owner of Tableau. Sure? Ins't the people?

pathetic, I wont use your service again. cowards

Don't do what you have to do for a government,
Do what you have to do for World Citizens.

Here's to rule by men, not rule by law.

its was only tots ups and category summaries of the data they didn't' publish anything that was stolen or copyrighted on tableau.

tableau software = helping ruin the internet.

A truly pitiful, anti-american, anti-democratic act. Shame on you.

This is disturbing. I live in Germany and we're already suffering massive cuts in terms of individual liberties as is freedom of speech while having a very bad track record of letting fascists get away with doing so only a few decades ago. You have no idea how this feels.

I am convinced that you guys submit to the wrong people. I haven't heard of your company before and I will from now on do everything I can to keep others from using any of your products or services.