Bloggers and whistleblowers
Posted by: Stephen Baker on January 12, 2005
Interesting thread on Dan Gillmor’s page about the legal battle between Apple and bloggers who spilled confidential product information. This is the beginning of a major battle to define the rights and responsibilities of bloggers as journalists. Of course it comes precisely as mainstream journalists are facing jail for refusing to divulge sources. So the bloggers may well be fighting for a privilege that’s on its way out.
But there’s another dynamic to this story—and blogs are a big part of it.
Why have journalists traditionally been allowed to keep their sources secret? The idea is that the public has an interest in learning about scandals and malfeasance inside of companies and governments, and that the people who know about these things—whistleblowers--won’t talk unless they’re guaranteed anonymity. But if Daniel Ellsberg wanted to leak the Pentagon Papers today, would he have to go to The New York Times, as he did in 1971? Not really. He could post them on the Web. That's why this Apple case is important. Increasingly the legal battles over information, from America to China, will focus more on whistleblowers posting online--and less on mainstream media.