Government spying should not lead to self censorship

The closure of Groklaw is frustrating, worrying and saddening all rolled up into one big ball of anger.

The owner of the legal site, which had relied on secure email exchanges from readers and anonymous sources to report on legal cases, said she could no longer run it in the knowledge that the US Government might be snooping on her correspondence.

Groklaw founder Pamela blogged: "The conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw. The simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how ‘clean’ we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere."

It’s tough for Pamela and I can well understand why she feels this way. To be honest, though, this is exactly the opposite of what journalists and bloggers should be doing. If anything, we need more people to be reporting and blogging.

As Privacy International put it: "The closing of Groklaw demonstrates how central right to privacy is to free expression. The mere threat of surveillance is enough to self-censor."

A developer of Tor, a service that provided anonymous communicationline, Tweeted: "This is exactly how it begins – chilling effects accumulate until the few who still speak out are easy targets."

And these comments are spot on. Fear of interference from governments shouldn’t stop investigative reporting and news analysis in its tracks. It should be a major reason to keep it up.

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