While I’ve previously rhapsodized about open-media platforms such as WikiLeaks as an idealized, power-balancing mechanism for democracy, all that is only possible assuming that the expectations and practices of a free society remaining intact.
That is far from a safe assumption: The New York Times notes that an important shield-law bill for journalists is heading for a vote in Congress has been modified in the wake of the WikiLeaks/Afghanistan story:
“Senators Charles E. Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, Democrats of New York and California, are drafting an amendment to make clear that the bill’s protections extend only to traditional news-gathering activities …”
So what exactly is a traditional news-gathering activity? And who, for that matter, is a journalist? Both of these things could be addressed in the bill in a manner that seems hostile to both technological and social innovation.
One step in this direction is to add specific language to the bill …
“… defining who would be covered by the law as a journalist — an area that can be tricky in an era of blogging and proliferation of online-only news media outlets.”
“After Afghan War Leaks, Revisions in a Shield Law Bill”
New York Times, August 4, 2010