Privacy and the Press: Scoops, Secrets, and Ethics in the New Media Landscape

The rise of blogs, social networks, and other new media channels is putting pressure on the way we think about two important and legally protected values: personal privacy and the free press. How are changes in the way we produce and consume the news altering these values, and how should we balance these values when they collide in new ways? As traditional newspaper business models have begun to falter, some newspapers have subtly shifted the way they report the news in ways that may tread upon traditional notions of personal privacy. It has become common to read in the mainstream news media about the private thoughts of minor figures as gleaned from postings to Facebook. In the meantime, the “new media” has done more than subtly shifted away from past practice; they are in many ways rewriting the rules of journalism, publicity, and privacy.

Tags: Content/IP / Privacy / Technology Policy

Co-sponsored by the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law
, The ATLAS Institute, and The Leroy Keller Center for the Study of the First Amendment

The rise of blogs, social networks, and other new media channels is putting pressure on the way we think about two important and legally protected values: personal privacy and the free press. How are changes in the way we produce and consume the news altering these values, and how should we balance these values when they collide in new ways? As traditional newspaper business models have begun to falter, some newspapers have subtly shifted the way they report the news in ways that may tread upon traditional notions of personal privacy. It has become common to read in the mainstream news media about the private thoughts of minor figures as gleaned from postings to Facebook. In the meantime, the “new media” has done more than subtly shifted away from past practice; they are in many ways rewriting the rules of journalism, publicity, and privacy.

Should we try to resist any of these changes, or are they simply the growing pains of progress? If we do want to resist, can we use markets, industry self-regulation, codes of conduct, lawsuits, or legislation as our tools? Does the First Amendment put limits on either attempts to protect personal privacy or the power of the press?

Join the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado Law School as we explore personal privacy and the free press in the shifting new media landscape. Leading academics and practitioners will present new scholarship addressing these issues, and media participants and other thought leaders will comment on these works and debate these issues.

Panel One: The Shifting Privacy Norms of Journalism. One way the mainstream news media seems to be responding to unprecedented business model pressures is by altering the ground rules for news reporting. The rise of blogging has spurred many major newspapers to launch blogs of their own. Yet sometimes it seems unclear whether the old rules of journalism apply to these new blogs. For example, many blogs report regularly on what people-whether in the public eye or not-have said on Facebook or other social networking pages. Moreover, the line between traditional reporting and gossip blogging seems to be blurring, with the mainstream news media reporting daily on the details of sexual affairs of public officials and the new media breaking stories of international importance. Are these shifts changing the willingness of people to enter public office?

Panel Two: Unmasking Online. The anonymity provided online, particularly in message boards and blog comment sections, has unleashed a wide range of behavior, including much activity that people find threatening, distasteful, or worse. Those in positions of power respond to these threats in different ways. Law enforcement officials send subpoenas trying to unmask anonymous commenters and anonymous sources. Reporter’s shield laws might protect these requests, although the application of these old laws to new technologies is up for debate. Private civil litigants have filed their own suits to do the same. Many newspaper and blog operators themselves have recently decided to ban anonymous comments. Should we welcome or regret the retreat of the anonymous blogosphere? Can we find moderate solutions that avoid the problems of anonymity online without killing the vibrancy of online spaces? What limits do the First and Fourth Amendments place on the government’s ability to unmask?

Panel Three: The Shifting Nature of the Freedoms of the Press. The changing nature of journalism is putting pressure on traditional First Amendment values and ground rules. How does the need for a free press put limits on our ability to protect personal privacy? How do we balance the need for personal privacy against a free press? Which players even qualify as “the press” under the Constitution in the new media landscape? Why should the law protect privacy, and when should the need to protect privacy trump the public’s need to know? How should the traditional privacy torts be interpreted-broadened or narrowed-in light of changing technology?

 


Sessions

Registration and Breakfast

Welcome
  • Dale Hatfield
    Spectrum Policy Initiative Co-director and Distinguished Advisor, Silicon Flatirons
  • Paul Ohm
    Associate Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
  • David Getches
    Dean, University of Colorado
Keynote Address
  • Jeffrey Rosen
    Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
Panel I: The Shifting Privacy Norms of Journalism
  • Harry Surden — Moderator
    Associate Professor, University of Colorado Law School
  • Paul Ohm — Presenter
    Associate Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
  • Wendy Seltzer — Presenter
    Fellow, Center for Information Technology Policy
  • Amy Gajda — Presenter
    Associate Professor of Law, Tulane University School of Law
  • Craig LaMay — Commenter
    Associate Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
  • Sara Just — Commenter
    Senior Producer for Digital Media and Political Coverage, ABC News
Lunch (provided)

Panel II: Unmasking Online
  • Viva Moffat — Moderator
    Assistant Professor, University of Denver Law School
  • James Grimmelmann — Presenter
    Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School
  • Danielle Citron — Commenter
    Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
  • Nathaniel Gleicher — Commenter
    , U.S. Department of Justice
  • Evan Brown — Commenter
    Associate, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
Break

Panel III: The Shifting Nature of Freedom of the Press
  • Helen Norton — Moderator
    Associate Dean, Associate Professor, University of Colorado Law School
  • Neil Richards — Presenter
    Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law
  • David Lat — Presenter
    Founder and Managing Editor, AboveTheLaw.com
  • Sandra Baron — Commenter
    Executive Director, Media Law Resource Center
  • Steven Zansberg — Commenter
    Partner, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP
Reception

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