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[liberationtech] Why we all have a stake in the Freedom of the Press Foundation

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Tue Dec 18 00:04:17 PST 2012

----- Forwarded message from Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at> -----

From: Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at>
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 14:33:34 -0800
To: The MiniFunPeople List <MiniFunPeople at>
Subject: Why we all have a stake in the Freedom of the Press Foundation
Reply-To: psl at
Organization: Mini Fun_People
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.7; rv:17.0) Gecko/17.0 Thunderbird/17.0

MiniFunPeople........................................ISSN 1098-7649
Forwarded-by: Peter Langston <MiniFunPeople at>
Forwarded-by: Dave Farber <dave at>
From: *Dewayne Hendricks* <dewayne at

  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="">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE

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