About ten years ago, an acquaintance found himself spending a few weekends in the Westchester County Jail after he was convicted of a “computer crime” under the regime of then-Westchester-County-District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. Ms. Pirro was one of those political climbers who topped out before she wanted to, and the conviction of this guy I used to know was questionable, but he is, nevertheless, a convicted felon.
Yesterday, the folks at Gizmodo published an article advocating behavior that’s pretty similar to what the no-longer-a-computer-consultant was convicted of. Essentially, the article says that if you’re a computer consultant, have access to your clients’ systems, and your client doesn’t pay you, you should A) mess around with those systems and B) then use your client’s systems against them to shame them publicly.
I’m not an attorney, but I’m pretty sure that would break a whole bunch of laws.
Let me be clear: while a well-written client agreement might give you leeway to come close to the behavior Gizmodo is promoting—maybe even do exactly what it says—I’m skeptical that any computer geek has ever presented such an agreement and gotten it signed. So essentially, Gizmodo is saying that it’s OK to be a felon. Nice.
I’ve had differences of opinion with Gizmodo before. Nick Denton, Gizmodo’s publisher, and I have even had it out over the way his company, Gawker Media, does things. Truth is, I’ve seen plenty of misinformation masquerading as Journalism thrown about at Gizmodo. But this one sets some kind of arrogance record.
In the United States, we have this ongoing “freedom of speech” debate, and because of freedom of speech the folks at Gizmodo have the right to say the kinds of things in that article. Cripes, even ACORN “Teaching Women How To Be Prostitutes” is protected speech here. But there’s another line that Gizmodo is crossing.
How in the world does telling people it’s OK to commit a felony qualify as journalism?
Sure, Perception is reality and journalists need to be just arrogant enough to say incendiary things to keep their readers interested. But don’t you feel as though this crossed the line?
Or maybe this is what journalism has come to. Track backward from this article to read about MG Siegler, Mike Arrington, AOL, and arrogance run amok. Or forget the noble profession of journalism; read this piece. Is this what discourse has come to?
Call it Journalism if you like. Or snidely refer to these people as nothing more than know-nothing bloggers if you prefer. But after you read nonsense like Gizmodo’s call for felonious behavior, please ask yourself whether this kind of attitude is a business change you’re behind.
You’d think Nick Denton, arrogant though he may be, would be smart enough to hire a business change consultant to manage this mess.