The EFFECTS of Mass Surveillance on Journalism | Tow Center for Digital Journalism

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Mass surveillance of the kind practiced by the NSA produces a chilling effect on journalism, because sources do not feel they can have a private conversation with a reporter. That’s the message of a group of scholars, journalists, and researchers from Columbia Journalism School and the MIT Center for Civic Media, in a public comment to the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies convened by President Obama.

 

The 15 page letter argues that mass surveillance is harmful to journalism and incompatible with existing law and policy. It goes on to document recent chilling effects, showing that real harm has already occurred.

“Put plainly, what the NSA is doing is incompatible with the existing law and policy protecting the confidentiality of journalist-­‐source communications. This is not merely an incompatibility in spirit, but a series of specific and serious discrepancies between the activities of the intelligence community and existing law, policy, and practice in the rest of the government. Further, the climate of secrecy around mass surveillance activities is itself actively harmful to journalism, as sources cannot know when they might be monitored, or how intercepted information might be used against them.”

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