October 9, 2009 | By Tim Jones

Amendment Would Deny Protections to Bloggers

Since 2007, Congress has been slowly considering The Free Flow Of Information Act. The bill is intended to prevent reporters from being forced to reveal the identity of anonymous sources. It was proposed in the wake of the Valerie Plame scandal, in which New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to reveal a source.

It's a critically important bill which unfortunately contains some rather large loopholes. A source can be exposed in cases where corporate trade secrets have been revealed, where national security could be harmed, or even where it's simply deemed to be in "the public interest."

Despite these flaws, the bill remains insufficiently dismantled for the tastes of some lawmakers. Senator Chuck Schumer last week introduced an amendment that would exempt bloggers, freelancers and other non-salaried journalists from the protections.

This is just baldly nonsensical. As EFF successfully argued in Apple v. Does in 2006, the goal of a shield law is to protect the free flow of information, not the the people we historically think of as journalists. Freedom of speech shouldn't be dependent on employment status.

When pressed by blogger "Kos" Moulitsas on the issue, Senator Schumer's office claimed that the amendment was a mere procedural ploy, and said he would "work to make sure" bloggers are protected in the final bill. Let's hope he's sincere.

EFF has fought long and hard to ensure that bloggers have the same legal protections as journalists, and will be watching this bill closely. If the anti-blogger amendment moves forward, we'll be working to defeat it.

To learn more, I recommend reading this recent article on the Schumer amendment by Jason Linkins, and/or this 2007 article on the shield law by EFF's Jennifer Granick.

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