TechCrunch/Twitter Controversy Heats Up

TechCrunch's decision this week to publish formerly confidential Twitter documents is still stirring up the blogosphere. While some commenters argue that TechCrunch is on safe legal ground -- at least to the extent that it's publishing information that's arguably of public interest -- others are condemning site owner Michael Arrington for making use of hacked documents.

Legalities aside, Arrington seems to be facing a public relations crisis of sorts. But it doesn't stem from the fact that he disclosed Twitter's information, but that he told everyone that he obtained it from a hacker.

Had he simply written that the site had come into possession of documents showing details of acquisition talks, no one would think twice. Every day journalists publish information that's leaked to the press against a company's wishes. The difference is, most journalists don't also say how they obtained that information.



What's more, had Arrington kept quiet about his source, Twitter would have had a hard time forcing him to reveal it. California has one of the strongest reporter shield laws in the country. That law provides that journalists can't be held in contempt for refusing to disclose their sources. A state appellate court has already ruled that the shield law applies to bloggers. In that case, Apple unsuccessfully attempted to discover the identities of people who leaked information about the new product "Asteroid" to some blogs.

TechCrunch, for its part, is continuing to post the documents. A recent entry provides some details about strategies for dealing with Facebook and Google, goals for growth, and potential revenue models.

The lesson from all this outrage directed at TechCrunch seems to be that news is like sausage: People want the final product, but don't want to know how it's made.

3 comments about "TechCrunch/Twitter Controversy Heats Up".
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  1. Josh Mchugh from Attention Span Media, July 17, 2009 at 6:12 p.m.

    Arrington would have been in hot water pretty quickly if he'd kept the source secret and then Twitter had announced that it had been hacked. Then it might have looked as though Techcrunch had hacked Twitter and stolen the docs, or at least that Twitter was in cahoots with the hackers. Which, come to think of it, they effectively are.

    Plus, this controversy is excellent link bait for the rest of us, who get to post links to the documents, which people are very interested in, under the pretext of writing about the controversy!

  2. Dean Procter from Transinteract, July 17, 2009 at 8:17 p.m.

    As one of the few internet users with any vestige of ethics, I'm not about to read what I know is stolen and private info, that has no public interest other than it shows the corporate strategy options and commercial IP of a company providing a good service.
    I suggest you have a think about the old proverb 'you reap what you sow', before you encourage more of it too.
    I'll be flushing 'what were they called' from my bookmarks.

    I don't see America having much of a future if this is the standard of play, why not just emigrate to China where you'll fit right in?

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 18, 2009 at 12:38 p.m.

    Maybe Arrington will be as lucky as Daniel Ellsberg and the New York Times after they stole/published the Pentagon Papers in 1969.

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