Citizen Journalism on Trial

It might behoove the ACLU, or some organization devoted to civil liberties, to devote some resources to figuring out how to defend speech that is inconvenient to plaintiffs lawyers.

Sandy Szwarc of the excellent blog Junkfood Science has a lengthy and interesting post about a subpoena delivered to the author of Neurodiversity, a website (and blog) focused on providing resources and information about autism.

The subpoena is particularly sweeping, demanding records and documents and citing, of all things, the bloggers listed on the site’s blogroll. Kathleen Seidel, the woman behind Neurodiversity, is fighting the subpoena, noting that she has nothing to do with the case in question. Another blogger has been maintaining a list of responses to the case, and the Wall Street Journal was the first mainstream media outlet to comment — yesterday. The quote at the top is from the WSJ article.

These are exactly the types of cases that will determine the rules of engagement for citizen journalists specifically and for bloggers more generally. Should Seidel be granted the same types of protections as more conventional journalists? If she isn’t, what does this imply about the practicability of blogging that is, as the WSJ puts it, “inconvenient to lawyers” or to other powerful people?

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