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July 29 2012

11:52

Bill Keller: I find myself in the awkward position of having to defend WikiLeaks

Opinion | New York Times :: You don’t have to embrace Julian Assange as a kindred spirit to believe that what he did in publishing those cables falls under the protection of the First Amendment. The backroom pressures by the Obama Administration’s State Department to expand its financial blockade targeting WikiLeaks to include news organizations that host information from their trove of pilfered documents goes too far.

AS rumors build about the potential financial blockade against the New York Times by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express for hosting U.S. government cables published by WikiLeaks, I find myself in the awkward position of having to defend WikiLeaks.

A report by Bill Keller, www.opinion-nytimes.com

July 27 2012

14:04

This Week in Review: Reddit and news orgs’ shooting coverage, and Yahoo and Twitter’s identities

The Aurora shooting, Reddit, and citizen journalism’s value: Much of this week’s news has been related to last week’s shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that killed 12 and injured dozens. Poynter tracked the spread of the news of the late-night shooting, and the site that got the most recognition for thorough reporting of the news as it broke was the social-news site Reddit. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon rounded up the range of coverage on Reddit, which included photos, comment threads with people who were in the theater, and comprehensive, continually updated timelines.

Those timelines drew particular attention from media observers: The Atlantic’s Megan Garber marveled at their empathy through thoroughness, and BuzzFeed’s John Herrman and NPR’s Elise Hu talked to the timelines’ author — an 18-year-old named Morgan Jones — with Herrman calling him “the go-to source in the story,” and Poynter’s Alan Stamm held him up as a model for aspiring journalists.

As The New York Times described, the site’s users also unearthed some details about the alleged shooter that the traditional news media missed. Adweek talked about Reddit’s reporting capabilities with the site’s general manager, Erik Martin, who said Reddit wasn’t designed to be a breaking-news source, but its users have used its tools for journalistic purposes anyway.

Several writers praised Reddit’s ability to cover breaking news collaboratively in such an effective way. Keith Wagstaff of Time wrote that “no news organization or social media site currently offers an experience that’s concurrently as immediate, engaging and thorough as the one offered by Reddit,” and in a pair of posts, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram remarked on Reddit’s ability to act as a verification hub and to allow readers to interact with people involved in news stories, and offered a defense of “citizen journalism” such as Reddit’s.

At Salon, Michael Barthel took issue with the praise for Reddit and citizen journalism, arguing that it isn’t immune from the same criticism the traditional media and that it’s “doing more or less the exact same thing that traditional journalism has always done, except not as reliably or sustainably.” J-prof Jay Rosen countered the piece with a Salon post of his own arguing that no one is saying citizen journalism will replace professional journalism.

Some traditional media organizations were also recognized for their skill in covering the story — the Denver Post’s Twitter coverage was run in part by its Digital First new curation team, and Digital First’s Steve Buttry drew tips for news organizations from the Post’s Twitter coverage, while Poynter looked at how the Post covered the news without a copy desk. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple also highlighted the coverage of Denver’s 9News TV.

How to cover tragedy carefully and sensibly: But traditional news organizations were also responsible for some serious missteps and some eyeroll-inducing coverage of the Aurora shooting, too. ABC News’ Brian Ross misidentified the shooter as a Tea Party member who had the same name, a mistake which Poynter’s Craig Silverman said the network made insufficient efforts to correct and apologize for.

Rem Rieder of the American Journalism Review and Steve Myers of Poynter pinned the blame for Ross’ and similar errors on the practice of incremental or “process” reporting, in which news is reported, bit by bit, as it comes in, then later confirmed or corrected. Rieder said he doesn’t find the practice “a very confidence-inducing or satisfying approach to journalism,” and Myers described how disclaimers and corrections can be separated from initial reports on Twitter.

Beyond that specific error, coverage of the event and its aftermath followed a predictable path of sensational coverage and unfounded speculation. The New York Times’ David Carr lamented that pattern in shooting coverage, concluding that many of the problems stem from the news media’s desire to answer the question that can’t be answered: “Why?”

The Atlantic’s J.J. Gould urged media outlets and consumers to start shaming organizations that cover such events exploitatively, and numerous people circulated a 2009 video by the BBC’s Charlie Brooker that illustrated how to (and how not to) cover a mass shooting properly, which New Statesman compared to Britain’s newspapers. Jay Rosen, meanwhile, criticized the excitement that characterized so much of the coverage.

The ethics of quote approval and draft sharing: Following last week’s New York Times story on news organizations allowing candidates and their staffs to approve their quotes, more news orgs were establishing or reiterating their policies barring those practices this week, including Bloomberg, McClatchy, and National Journal. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple parsed through a few common quoting and negotiation practices, and the Journal’s Ron Fournier told him the key element differentiating what’s OK from what’s not is who has control.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post journalist caught some flak after the Texas Observer reported that he shared drafts of a story with University of Texas officials and allowed them to suggest edits that ended up in the story. Post editor Marcus Brauchli ultimately decreed that future draft-sharing would have to be approved by an editor.

In the ensuing discussion on draft sharing, the reporter had some defenders, including Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride in the Observer story. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon noted that the story contained quite a bit information that was unfavorable to the university, while the Post’s Erik Wemple defended the practice of draft sharing in general, saying that a refusal to do so affirms journalists’ arrogance. “It’s a convention built on the idea that journalists are so brilliant that they can get a complicated set of facts and circumstances dead-bang right on the first try without feedback from the people who know the topic best.”

What exactly is Yahoo?: A week after ex-Googler Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo CEO, she’s begun to inspire confidence in the troops there, according to All Things D’s Kara Swisher, while Wired’s Steven Levy reported on the army of ex-Google managers Mayer could lure to Yahoo. The New York Times’ David Carr said the key question for Yahoo — as it has been for so many web companies before it — is, what is it, exactly? He concluded that Yahoo is (among other things) in the news business, but by accident more than anything.

Tim Carmody of The Verge said that question — especially whether it’s a media or tech company — could be shaped in part by where it moves most of its operations. He reported that Mayer may move many of Yahoo’s media execs to New York, making it a place where it could pursue both its media and tech sides. Ad Age’s Jason Del Rey and Michael Learmonth said Yahoo’s future is in creating more high-quality products, an area in which it hasn’t spent much money recently.

Twitter moves further toward media: We were also asking the “What is it?” question this week about another company: Twitter. The Wall Street Journal reported (paywalled) on Twitter’s plans to build out around big events, as Twitter announced the first of those partnerships — a hub for curating conversation about the Olympics with NBCUniversal. Meanwhile, Adweek reported that Twitter is in talks with Hollywood producers about launching original web shows a la “The Real World.”

In a series of posts, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram wrote about Twitter’s move toward being a media outlet, saying that it doesn’t really need media outlets such as NBCUniversal to coordinate event-based coverage, that Twitter is moving toward an Apple- or Facebook-esque “walled garden” approach with regard to developers, and that producing ad-driven content like web shows gets away from Twitter’s core aims.

Meanwhile, The New York Times’ Nick Bilton asked whether Twitter is a media or tech company, concluding that it looks an awful lot like a media company. NYU j-prof Jay Rosen posed that Twitter is “a new kind of media company that doesn’t make any content.” Slate’s Matt Yglesias said the media/tech distinction isn’t a good one — the real distinction is between companies that sell a product and ones that sell an audience, and Twitter is quite clearly the latter.

Reading roundup: Here are the most interesting smaller stories going on this week:

— A couple of updates on the ongoing News Corp. saga: Rupert Murdoch resigned from the board of News International, his British newspaper division, and Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast explained why Murdoch is loosening his grip on his newspapers. Meanwhile, former News International head Rebekah Brooks was charged in the phone hacking scandal, and the Telegraph wondered if the charges could lead to a deeper U.S. investigation. The New York Times wrote about the case’s impact on British newspaper culture.

— A few WikiLeaks developments: A judge ruled that the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks are still secret, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that U.S. government officials are now talking about the possibility of prosecuting news organizations like The New York Times in addition to WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram urged journalists to support WikiLeaks’ First Amendment rights, and the Times’ Bill Keller followed suit.

— Barry Diller, whose IAC now owns most of the Newsweek/Daily Beast partnership, said in an earnings call that he might eliminate part or all of Newsweek’s print edition as soon as the end of this year. Newsweek editor Tina Brown tried to calm her staff down, and the New York Observer’s Foster Kamer detailed the now-ended Sidney Harman era at the magazine.

— The New York Times Co. released its second-quarter figures this week and posted a loss, thanks to declining digital ad sales, even as digital subscriptions for the Times and its Boston Globe are up. As New York magazine’s Joe Coscarelli put up, the Times is beginning to be supported by its readers more than its advertisers.

— Finally, a very thoughtful piece here at the Lab from Jonathan Stray, who suggested three principles by which to design personalized news experiences: interest, effects, and agency.

Photos of Aurora theater by Algr, quotation mark by Quinn Dombrowski, and Yahoo ice sculpture by Randy Stewart used under a Creative Commons license.

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04:52

May 06 2012

08:15

Data journalism Guardian: WikiLeaks Iraq war logs, every death mapped

Another great visual data journalism example. The Guardian team used Google Fusion tables. A text-numbers only version wouldn't reveal how many have died.

Guardian :: The Wikileaks Iraq war logs provide us with a unique picture of every death in Iraq. These are those events mapped using Google Fusion tables (Fusion tables are downloadable).

Continue to read Simon Rogers, www.guardian.co.uk

April 26 2012

16:03

April 19 2012

20:16

Julian Assange's lawyer 'prevented from boarding flight at Heathrow'

Guardian :: A lawyer for the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has said she was stopped at Heathrow airport and told she was on a watch list requiring official approval before she could return to her native Australia. Jennifer Robinson said a member of airport security told her she "must have done something controversial".

Reported by - Continue to read Press Association, www.guardian.co.uk

Tags: Wikileaks

April 18 2012

16:18

Daily Must Reads, April 18, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. Julian Assange launches talk show on Russian television (NYT)



2. Father of the world wide web urges people to demand their personal data from Google, Facebook (Guardian)



3. Hulu's paid subscription service hits 2 million users (GigaOm)



4. More people are watching TV shows on their tablets (MediaDailyNews)



5. Can Twitter replace newswire services? (Digiday)



6. Netflix could move from streaming to making content (GigaOm)



Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



Subscribe to Daily Must Reads newsletter

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16:12

Greenwald: Attacks on Russia Today and Julian Assange reveal much about the critics

Salon.com :: A new news show hosted by Julian Assange debuted yesterday on RT, the global media outlet funded by the Russian government and carried by several of America’s largest cable providers. His first show was devoted to an interview with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has not given a television interview since 2006. The combination of Assange and a Russian-owned TV network has triggered a predictable wave of snide, smug attacks from American media figures, attacks that found their purest expression in this New York Times review yesterday of Assange’s new program by Alessandra Stanely.

Glenn Greenwald: Much is revealed by these media attacks on Assange and RT — not about Assange or RT but about their media critics.

Russia TV | YouTube, "Julian Assange's The World Tomorrow: Hassan Nasrallah (E1)", the uploaded recording of the interview:

Quoted from here - Continue to read Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com

Previously discussed here - "The Prisoner as Talk Show Host. Julian Assange Starts Talk Show on Russian TV," by Alessandra Stanley, www.nytimes.com

Tags: Wikileaks

April 16 2012

15:31

April 13 2012

12:48

Julian Assange's 'The World Tomorrow' will start Tuesday April 17, 2012

WikiLeaks World Tomorrow :: Julian Assange, founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, has completed filming twelve episodes of his forthcoming show, “The World Tomorrow”. The first episode will be aired on RT and released online on Tuesday 17 April 2012, with other networks to follow.

The World Tomorrow” is a collection of twelve interviews featuring an eclectic range of guests, who are stamping their mark on the future: politicians, revolutionaries, intellectuals, artists and visionaries. The world's last five years have been marked by an unrelenting series of economic crises and political upheavals. But they have also given rise to the eruption of revolutionary ferment in the Middle East and to the emergence of new protest movements in the Euro-American world. In Julian's words, the aim of the show is “to capture and present some of this revolutionary spirit to a global audience. My own work with WikiLeaks hasn't exactly made my life easier”, says Assange, “but it has given us a platform to broadcast world-shifting ideas.”

WikiLeaks promotional video

worldtomorrow.wikileaks.org

Tags: Wikileaks
05:23

Mastercard: Australia's Prime Minister did not tell us to block Wikileaks donations

ABC Technology :: A viral Tweet which alleges Australia's Prime Minister and Attorney General ordered Mastercard to block donations to Wikileaks has been rubbished by Mastercard. The story broke as Wikileaks and its supporters plan to mark Julian Assange's detention in the UK for 500 days without charge, on April 20.

Hat tip: Asher Wolf:

#Breaking: Prime Minister did not tell Mastercard to block #Wikileaks donations bit.ly/HEGtLU

— ABC Tech & Games (@ABCtech) April 13, 2012

Also here (via @jaraparilla):

Mastercard denies Aust Govt directed @WikiLeaks embargo, but uses Gillard's false claim of illegality as justification abc.net.au/technology/art…

— PW Dorling (@Ausflatfish) April 13, 2012

Details and Twitter conversation - Continue to read Nick Ross, www.abc.net.au

Tags: Wikileaks

March 31 2012

10:02

Al Jazeera English to downsize Washington D.C. operation

The Atlantic :: We didn't get this through Wikileaks, but we just acquired an internal Al Jazeera memo to staff indicating a serious downsizing of the DC-based news operations of Al Jazeera English. Many employees of AJ English now fear layoffs will decimate their operation.

The complete internal memo - Continue to read Steve Clemons, www.theatlantic.com

February 27 2012

09:59

WikiLeaks: Dow and Union Carbide hired Stratfor to monitor Yes Men

Huffington Post :: The Yes Men, an anti-corporate group best known for impersonating official spokespersons, was one of the groups monitored by Stratfor, a private intelligence firm now at the centre of global attention due to the massive release of private emails by WikiLeaks. A series of emails, obtained by WikiLeaks and released on Sunday night, shows that Dow and Union Carbide hired Stratfor to monitor the Yes Men and other activists working on raising awareness of India's Bhopal tragedy. The 1984 toxic gas leak killed thousands and is widely considered one of the worst industrial accidents ever.

Continue to read Ron Nurwisah, www.huffingtonpost.ca

Tags: Wikileaks
07:34

Stratfor denounces WikiLeak's email disclosure as deplorable breach of privacy

Stratfor | PR Newswire :: In December, thieves compromised Stratfor's data systems and stole a large number of company emails, along with other private information of Stratfor readers, subscribers and employees. Those stolen emails apparently will be published by Wikileaks. This is a deplorable, unfortunate — and illegal — breach of privacy. Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.

Continue to read www.prnewswire.com

Tags: Wikileaks

February 09 2012

20:40

WikiLeaks - Bradley Manning arraignment scheduled for Feb. 23

New York Post :: Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of leaking confidential US diplomatic and military cables to WikiLeaks, will be arraigned Feb. 23, the military announced Thursday. Manning has been charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet, theft of public property or records, transmitting defense information, fraud and other related charges. The 24-year-old faces life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy -- the most serious of the charges he is facing.

Continue to read www.nypost.com

Tags: Wikileaks

January 22 2012

07:25

WikiLeaks - unfortunate trend to make court processes less open and transparent

New York Times :: This much is known: In its hunt for information about three people it believes to be associated with the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, the Justice Department has sought to extract details about them and their communications on Twitter. What is not yet known is where else the Justice Department went looking. On Friday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked a federal court in Virginia to reveal the names of the other Internet companies from whom the Justice Department solicited information.

Continue to read Somini Sengupta, bits.blogs.nytimes.com

January 19 2012

18:20

Daily Must-Reads, Jan. 19, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung

1. TV news starts covering SOPA after fleet of major sites go dark (TV Newser)

2. Did the anti-SOPA protests work? (PC World)

3. Apple unveils iBooks Author, an app for easy self-publishing (GigaOm)

4. Why the news industry should mimic Hulu, Netflix (Nieman Lab)

5. Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks, talks to the Rolling Stone (The Rolling Stone)

Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!







Subscribe to Daily Must Reads newsletter

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

January 14 2012

09:18

Time Warner, CBS Corp.: Anonymous posts personal details of media executives

New York Times | Mediadecoder :: The online activist group known as Anonymous, which has targeted opponents of the Occupy Wall Street movement and businesses that stopped providing services to WikiLeaks, has set its sights on a new adversary: media executives. In protest of antipiracy legislation currently being considered by Congress, the group has posted online documents that reveal personal information about Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, and Sumner M. Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation.

Continue to read Amy Chozick, mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com

January 12 2012

20:10

Homeland Security watches Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks

Reuters :: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.

Continue to read Mark Hosenball, www.reuters.com

January 11 2012

15:20

3 Laws for Journalists in a Data-Saturated World

At the Cyberspace Conference in London in November, Igor Shchegolev, the Russian minister of communications and mass media, referred to sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics:

robot_byra1000_flickrcc.jpg

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Earlier in 2011, after the phone-hacking scandal erupted in the U.K. and the level of criticism of the journalism profession soared, I started thinking about these three laws. Meanwhile, there is a daily deluge of excitement about data journalism - from Owni.eu to the Guardian, Telegraph and New York Times - and about hacking (enthusiasm for the white hat variety and frequent warnings about the black hat flavor).

Some sections of the media want, at least it may seem to some of us, a witch hunt against the rest for practices that have been long present in journalism, and British journalism in particular. Just this week, former editor of the Sun newspaper in Britain Kelvin McKenzie was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about events 20 years ago. Others want to drive so far toward data and ceaseless online information that some of us wonder what happened to the people we used to interview. And if you question either of those, you will be denounced as being part of the problem.

Obsess too much about the technology and you risk forgetting the human beings we report on, and the fact they can easily be trampled under the feet of hoards of reporters surging in their lust for immediate "information" without pause for second thought.

In an age in which "hacks and hackers" are merged into a confused space focused more on data than the people behind it, I want to see Asimov's laws rewritten.

Let me propose Three Laws for Journalists in the Digital World:

1. Digital systems must be designed to protect and ensure, to the fullest extent possible, personal data and its exchange and communication.

2. Journalists must pursue all stories deemed to be in the public interest, even where that may require challenging the security of digital systems.

3. Journalists must protect their sources as well as the innocent public to the same extent as the digital systems of the First Law, where it would otherwise render the impossibility of the Second Law.

The First Law

So-called "black hat" hackers, such as criminal gangs who attack companies for data on customers, obviously fall afoul of the First Law above. But the First Law also accommodates those hackers who deliberately challenge a system to ultimately make it safer.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario published in 2009 "The 7 Foundational Principles" of Privacy by Design, which included as No. 2: "Privacy as the Default Setting ... by ensuring that personal data are automatically protected in any given IT system or business practice. If an individual does nothing, their privacy still remains intact."

While it might be relatively straightforward for companies to protect private information, it is less so for society at large.

Michelle Govan, a lecturer in ethical hacking at Glasgow Caledonian University, teaches a course focusing on attacking systems to find the holes and then patching them. She explained that the key element of legal hacking is having the permission of the system owner or operator. For the rest of us, any information online is not private.

"Everybody has a responsibility for their own privacy," she said. "Where does privacy start? You create your own digital footprint online -- anything you put online is open to people using it maliciously.

"I always provide students with the understanding and experience of the application of legal aspects so they know they have to use these skills for good. It's all about the permission and knowledge of what limits the law sets," she added. "We have legal laws [and some] ethical laws -- it's down to a person's own values. You have to make people respect what they're doing."

There have been plenty of examples of going further with once private information as companies battle for control of as much data as possible.

Such was the recent case of Klout, which was accused of automatically creating profiles and assigning scores to minors. Klout argued that much of a user's information, such as name, sex and profile photo, is already public.

Newspaper or other media companies and their systems would also be governed by this First Law, either in protecting their own systems from criminal hacking, or their users who might be exposed to viruses or other online threats via news stories, etc.

The First Law does not exclude examples such as hackers diverting Internet connections when states crack down on civil liberties, such as in Syria. Because those hackers are ultimately aiming to protect individuals and not expose them to harm as they fight for greater democratic freedoms, they meet the requirements of the First Law.

The Second Law

One of the many flaws in the hacking of telephone voice-mail in the U.K. was that the actions were not in the public interest. There are legal precedents in the U.K. for how public interest is defined, but the behavior of celebrities would rarely fall within those categories, and certainly not when the press goes on a "fishing expedition" for scandal on any high-profile figure imaginable.

Hacking into the voice-mail of a murdered schoolgirl was not legal or ethical. But you could imagine a hypothetical case where if the police were not making adequate efforts to find the killer, or where Milly Dowler had been alive and police were not acting to help trace her; AND at the invitation of her parents, the press got involved and accessed her phone. But that is highly theoretical and was not the case.

If journalists must do investigations -- and there's a recognition we must, even if nobody knows how to pay for it -- then there will be instances where they do breach the security of digital systems.

They might need to prove, as an ethical hacker might, that a government or corporate system did not have sufficient protections of citizens' data.

The Second Law is relatively straightforward if you need to meet the standard of public interest first. There might still be legal challenges after publication, broadcast or posting online, but if you have to justify it internally first, that's a good start. Most reporters know and follow the Second Law intuitively.

The Third Law

The point of merger for these laws, and for the worlds of "hacks and hackers" is the Third Law.

Even if the hacking of telephone voice-mail wasn't illegal already in the U.K., a handful of reporters at the News of the World and potentially elsewhere were clearly not ethically protecting their sources. In that world, everyone is potentially fair game for worldwide exposure, on anything, however trivial.

Clare Harris, former editor of the Big Issue in Scotland magazine and now media and communications officer with the Scottish Refugee Council, said journalists and editors don't always think about the potential consequences to interviewees of their stories going online. While a refugee might be safe in the U.K., their family could still be at risk in the country of origin, where stories about human rights abuses could be easily accessed by government forces.

clare_harris_2_5914.jpg

"We have to be really clear if we are putting someone forward for interview that it is likely to go on the web and go worldwide, because we are dealing with people who are very vulnerable," she explained.

"In some cases, people would be more happy to speak to newspapers about their situation if they knew their stories won't be online. No journalist has ever asked us if it is safe to put the story online," she said.

But for Harris, bigger questions still have to be asked: about the nature of sources and the boundaries for "private" and "public."

"What is a source now? Is it someone who has tweeted something? Is everything online fair game?" she asked.

Harris' comments are echoed in the Wall Street Journal coverage last year of a Supreme Court case involving questions of how GPS technology is used by police.

During oral arguments, Justice Samuel Alito said: "Maybe 10 years from now, 90% of the population will be using social networking sites, and they will have on average 500 friends, and they will have allowed their friends to monitor their location 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, through the use of their cell phones. What would the expectation of privacy be then?"

How technically difficult is it to protect sources in the digital age? Very.

Govan in Glasgow said information is so easy to extract now, that it can be eyebrow-raising for her students initially.

"If a reporter is trying to protect their sources online, it's limited when you can get Google to locate information for you," she said. "Google caches anything online so once online, it's essentially public. It becomes public data."

The need to look beyond data

Stephen Janis is an investigative reporter for Fox 45 in Baltimore and co-author of the book, "Why Do We Kill?" While data has become more important in journalism, Janis said he always tries to find the people at the heart of stories.

But the people you find also sometimes need protection. He said it is relatively easy to find people on Facebook, and the connections they have, which can expose who you're speaking to as a reporter.

"I've dealt with a lot of sources inside agencies who could get fired for speaking to me. We are all secretive about who our sources are. But my online social relationships could be used to ferret out some sources," he said.

So if it is so easy to get information about sources, what should reporters do?

Was WikiLeaks better at protecting its sources through military grade encryption on its "drop box"? Did they fail in protecting information of individuals contained within released documents when they published everything sans redaction?

Attempts by the Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera to entice whistleblowers to traditional media instead of WikiLeaks have been criticized for failing to ensure anonymity or guarantee information would not be handed to law enforcement agencies.

If Twitter has been compelled to release information by the courts on its accounts, how should media organizations encourage the flow of information via social media? Does it require, at the very least, warnings in advance so individuals make an informed choice to contact media companies that can't protect them?

Or would the media be better to advise their readers and users to apply Tor software to protect their systems from tracking before sending information?

In the pursuit of faster information and more readers/consumers, we may have forgotten the need to protect our sources, and how easily we leave trails exposing them to risk.

Does retweeting a comment from the "Arab Spring" expose the originator, however anonymous, to risk? Do the images we take from Twitter accounts include GPS tags?

Quite apart from the immorality and illegality of hacking the voice-mail of a murdered schoolgirl in the U.K., how are we using technology as reporters?

If we can't protect our sources, how can our work possibly be in the public interest? If you fail to do the Third Law, you make the Second Law impossible.

Why Three Laws and Why Now?

These questions matter. In obsessing about all the journalism practices used in the U.K. for the past 20 or 30 years, and in the rush for immediacy and intimacy with the digital world, there needs to be an underpinning of something for journalism. Every reporter knows they must protect their sources, even if we have not articulated that well to our citizen counterparts.

T. S. Eliot wrote in "The Rock," Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? Data is fine. It can be beautiful and elegant and informative. But some data must be protected, and other data must be investigated. The drive to inform must have an ethical underpinning of some kind.

These three laws could be part of better guiding the professionals and those sources -- human or numeric -- with whom we interact.

Robot photo by Flickr user ra1000 and used here with Creative Commons license.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

January 05 2012

23:03

WikiLeaks backers lose bid to keep Twitter data from U.S

Business Week :: Three WikiLeaks backers lost their bid to keep information on them collected from their Twitter Inc. accounts from being turned over to U.S. prosecutors who are investigating the group’s publication of classified information. U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday denied a request by the backers that the information sought by prosecutors be blocked while a federal appeals court considers their challenge.

Continue to read Tom Schoenberg, www.businessweek.com

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