Congress Shields Bloggers
The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to extend journalists’ legal shield for protecting their sources to advertising-supported bloggers. CNET reports today that after hours of debating the bill, a voice vote in the House indicated clear support for the measure, despite the Bush administration’s opposition. The bill itself has been before Congress for over two months.
I’m impressed that at least one house of Congress has taken a step toward seeing bloggers as legitimate news sources. But why only advertising-supported bloggers? There are a few arguments on both sides of that issue:
- Advertising-supported bloggers are more likely to earn a livelihood from reporting the news, and thus have more of a stake in ensuring that they’re seen as trustworthy to their sources—they’re essentially just like a newspaper reporter in that way.
- Establishing a minimal standard means that people can’t just throw up a blog simply to avoid having to testify about information they’ve received, according to one of the bill’s primary sponsors, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).
- As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA; Can you believe it, Law & Order fans?! A rep named Adam Schiff!) points out, however, the bill’s financial gain requirement is too low. He states that anyone “could start a blog and request advertising on that blog, and whether they get it or not, would be considered a journalist under this bill.” Presumably, the requirement could be met by programs\ including programs like Text Link Ads and AdSense.
If passed, immunity under this federal law wouldn’t be absolute, but opposition to the bill contends that it will interfere with criminal investigations. The shield law does include some exceptions, including for terrorism-related cases.
What do you think? Do bloggers deserve—or even need—the protection afforded by a shield law?