An online petition crated by Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reddit, and the ACLU (among others) to register concern to the Obama Administration over the recent revelations regarding government surveillance.
I would strongly recommend you check out (and if you agree, sign) the petition.
As a society we cannot afford to simply allow our civil liberties to slip away from us, even if for what appears to be a good cause. Out founding fathers very wisely build our government on a firmament of checks and balances. We are in deadly danger of allowing those checks and balances to be swept away, to all of our detriment.
Based in this article from GeekWire, it looks like the University of Washington (a public institution, I believe) may have set itself up for a bit of a First Amendment issue with its “Live Coverage Policy” for journalists credentialed to cover its sports program.
The policy explicitly limits journalists to 20 Tweets per basketball game and 45 per football game. Violations can result in revocation of the violator’s press credentials. As a public institution, and thus, arguably, a “state actor”, the UoW may be violating the First Amendment with this policy.
Even if it is not, it certainly raises (once again) the issue of social media in the press and what its implications are for First Amendment speech (including, but not limited to freedom of the Press).
Of course, there are (albeit distant and indirect) additional issues of trademark, fair use, and the role of public university ownership and use of intellectual property implicated in these situations as well. Those, however, are subjects for another time.
This puts be in mind of the quote from the German author Heinrich Heine: “Das war Vorspiel nur. Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” This translates, loosely to: “That was only a prelude. Where one burns books, one will eventually burn men as as well.”
I first saw this quote in the museum at the Dachau concentration camp and it has stuck with me ever since. While we are not talking about literally burning books, the point is: censorship is a dangerous thing, as our founding fathers well knew.
I certainly don’t advocate the wholesale looting and publishing of sensitive materials, whether governmental or private. That having been said, just because someone slaps a “secret” label on something does not make it sacrosanct. Freedom of the press was interpreted to be a logical extension of freedom of speech for a reason.
When WikiLeaks made its first big media appearance by publishing tens of thousands of top-secret diplomatic cables in 2010, we argued the group headed by controversial front man Julian Assange was a media entity, albeit an unusual one. The broader implications of this status extend far beyond the question of whether we support the organization or its motives: As a blog post at the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, threats aimed at WikiLeaks are by implication also threats to any other media outlet that dares to publish government information. And some members of Congress say they want to make this connection explicit by changing laws so that journalists can also be sanctioned.
In his post Trevor Timm notes that signs have been accumulating for some time now that members of the government are looking for ways to go after journalists who publish official secrets. During a recent hearing of…