Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Link in the Chain

Trey Smith

Barrett Brown makes for a pretty complicated victim. A Dallas-based journalist obsessed with the government’s ties to private security firms, Mr. Brown has been in jail for a year, facing charges that carry a combined penalty of more than 100 years in prison.

Professionally, his career embodies many of the conflicts and contradictions of journalism in the digital era. He has written for The Guardian, Vanity Fair and The Huffington Post, but as with so many of his peers, the line between his journalism and his activism is nonexistent. He has served in the past as a spokesman of sorts for Anonymous, the hacker collective, although some members of the group did not always appreciate his work on its behalf.

In 2007, he co-wrote a well-received book, “Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny,” and over time, he has developed an expertise in the growing alliance between large security firms and the government, arguing that the relationship came at a high cost to privacy.

From all accounts, including his own, Mr. Brown, now 32, is a real piece of work. He was known to call some of his subjects on the phone and harass them. He has been public about his struggles with heroin and tends to see conspiracies everywhere he turns. Oh, and he also threatened an F.B.I. agent and his family by name, on a video, and put it on YouTube, so there’s that.

But that’s not the primary reason Mr. Brown is facing the rest of his life in prison.
~ from A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link by David Carr ~
What a teaser! As the title of this article indicates, Brown is in trouble because he posted a link in a chat room that the Obama administration didn't like.

Think about the implications in this case. With the NSA spying on our online activity, the government seems to know what links we are sharing. It is not so fantastic to think that, sometime in the not-so-distant future, the government might create an outfit called the Link Police. This outfit will decide which links are appropriate (put the government or their corporate benefactors in a good light) and which are not (put the government or their corporate benefactors in a bad light). Share the wrong kind of link and you too might find yourself in a situation not unlike Mr. Brown.

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