Latest Attempt To Create Federal Journalism Shield Law May Carve Wikileaks Out Of The Protections

from the petty,-much? dept

With so much attention getting paid to Wikileaks lately -- and with some politicians insisting that the site is guilty of treason, it should come as little surprise that no US politician wants to be seen proposing a law that somehow helps Wikileaks. We've written in the past about the (very much needed) effort to create a federal shield law for journalists, allowing them to protect their sources. Of course, part of the issue is who counts as a "journalist." In the past there's been a lot of back and forth and back and forth over whether or not "amateur" journalists could qualify -- but one thing that the folks working on the bill now want to make sure: it won't apply to Wikileaks (sent in by paperbag).

Apparently Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are quickly drafting a special amendment that says the law wouldn't apply to "websites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents." That's obviously targeted directly at Wikileaks, but it certainly could impact other sites that store documents as well, and that could create problems. I understand the political reasoning behind this, but it seems silly and only likely to cause more problems. And, of course, it won't have any real impact on Wikileaks anyway. Not only is the organization not based in the US, but it designed its system to act as a technological shield law, anyway. So, the law won't impact Wikileaks, but will almost certainly end up creating unintended consequences for other sites. All for political capital. Wouldn't it be nice if we had politicians who did what's right for once, rather than what's politically expedient?

Filed Under: journalism, shield law, wikileaks

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  1. identicon
    David, 1 Sep 2010 @ 5:35pm

    Expect this kind of manuevering...

    The newspaper industry if not the entire generic news industry itself is trying to save itself. You can bet that over the next 5 to 10 years, mainstream media enterprises are going to attempt to outlaw, basically, any dissemination conduits that literally make them less interesting (read: less profitable). *All* the mainstream news outlets are both fascinated and terrified by Wikileaks because while Wikileaks is able to publish its cache of secret Afgan war diaries, mainstream media is stuck droning on about new airline baggage fees or the latest thing someone says has some risk of causing cancer. MSM could man up and do what Wikileaks is doing but they do not because they realize it would mean loss of access, loss of content, and loss of advertisers. Wikileaks and sites like it don't play by the rules of that model and the CNNs of the world do not like it one bit. Wait and see.

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