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[liberationtech] Why we all have a stake in the Freedom of the Press Foundation
eugen at leitl.org
Tue Dec 18 00:04:17 PST 2012
----- Forwarded message from Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at psl.to> -----
From: Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at psl.to>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 14:33:34 -0800
To: The MiniFunPeople List <MiniFunPeople at psl.to>
Subject: Why we all have a stake in the Freedom of the Press Foundation
Reply-To: psl at acm.org
Organization: Mini Fun_People
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Forwarded-by: Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at psl.to>
Forwarded-by: Dave Farber <dave at farber.net>
From: *Dewayne Hendricks* <dewayne at warpspeed.com
Why we all have a stake in the Freedom of the Press Foundation
This new nonprofit to protect WikiLeaks and other whistleblowers
from payment systems blocking deserves our support
By Dan Gillmor Dec 17, 2012
Two years ago this month, the major online payment systems – Visa,
Mastercard, PayPal and more – cut off one of the world's most famous
journalism organizations from the public. They stopped taking payments on
behalf of WikiLeaks and, in the process, highlighted one of the most
dangerous threats to modern journalism: the ability of centralized third
parties to make trouble for anyone and any organization they didn't like,
for whatever reason.
With a few exceptions, the traditional journalism industry has been all but
indifferent to what happened – a payment boycott done almost certainly
under pressure from the American government, which was and remains
infuriated by WikiLeaks' methods and results. No other journalism-related
organization has been treated this way, as far as I know. But given the
rise of independent media organizations and the utter lack of
accountability the payment systems have faced for their outrageous actions,
the threat is greater than ever.
The journalists' silence was unfortunate but, sad to say, a reflection of
most media companies' coziness with the rich and powerful in America and
around the world. It's fair to assume, though, that had any one of those
companies been shut out of modern payment systems, the entire industry
would have: a) created a huge outcry; and b) found ways to go around the
centralized systems that had taken such pernicious actions.
So I'm glad to see the emergence of a new not-for-profit group whose
mission is to "promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism
focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in
government". It's called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its method is
"crowd-funding" – pulling together donations from people like you and me –
and it could be a game-changer.
The foundation is based in San Francisco, with a board of directors that
includes Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame), John Perry Barlow
(co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation), Xeni Jardin (from
BoingBoing), the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald and several others in the civil
liberties and media arenas. (Disclosure: I am friends with several board
members, and have offered advice to the founders.)
What's novel are the tactics: the foundation will be accepting donations
from individuals and then forwarding them along, according to the donors'
specific direction, to organizations designed by foundation. The list of
organizations will evolve over time; the first group includes WikiLeaks,
MuckRock, the National Security Archive and the UpTake, all of which are
worthy of support.
The foundation has come up with clear and useful criteria for its selections:
1. Record of engaging in transparency journalism or supporting it in a
material way, including support for whistleblowers.
2. Public interest agenda.
3. Organizations or individuals under attack for engaging in transparency
4. Need for support: the foundation's goal is to prioritize support for
organizations and individuals who are in need of funding or who face
obstacles to gaining support on their own.
The system the foundation has devised is simple and smart. Donors can
designate as many or few of the organizations as he or she chooses, with
online "sliders" that make it easy to raise or lower the percentage going
to each of the chosen groups. The foundation also accepts donations, and it
takes an 8% cut of the proceeds for operational costs. I'm donating
immediately, and will designate that my gift goes to all four
organizations, with the bulk to WikiLeaks, given its especially endangered
The crowdfunding method takes a page from the "HumbleBundle" operation,
which has been offering software, books and games this way – asking people
to donate whatever they wish, and choosing which providers and/or
organizations will get what percentage of their donations. Then, the donors
can download the items.
Donations range widely. I've participated several times. The best part is
that everyone involved gets value from the system.
The obvious question raised by the Freedom of the Press Foundation
initiative is whether the payment systems will shut this off, too. If they
do, they'll be punishing not just WikiLeaks, but the entire journalism
ecosystem – and ultimately, your right to get the information you want and
need. Will they extend the bad faith they showed two years ago?
That I even have to ask this question is evidence of the power of these
centralized mega-corporations. They have far too much power, like too many
other telecommunications companies and a number of others in the
information and communications industries on which we rely more and more
for our daily activities.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation can be a first step away from the edge
of a cliff. But it needs to be recognized and used by as many people as
possible, as fast as possible. And journalists, in particular, need to
offer their support in every way. This is ultimately about their future,
whether they recognize it or not. But it's more fundamentally about all of
I encourage you to support the foundation and the organizations it is
trying to help. This is about your future, too.
----- End forwarded message -----
Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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