Should journalists help catch sources who commit crimes? Pierre Omidyar, Paul Carr, and Sarah Lacy debate
Last night, Paul Carr pointed to a tweet by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of a new investigative journalism outlet that employs Glenn Greenwald, that read, “Anybody who publishes stolen info should help catch the thief.” The tweet was in reference to a 2009 incident in which Techcrunch (where Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy used to work) published confidential Twitter documents illegally obtained by a hacker.
Lacy and Carr, like Omidyar, disagreed with Techcrunch's choice to publish the documents because they were not in the public interest. The greater point of contention is this: Should editors ever help catch a hacker or any other source who's committed a crime? Does it make a difference if the information possessed by the source is in the public interest? Is the nature of a crime a factor, whether it's violent or non-violent? And can sources trust Omidyar's judgment in determining what situations may merit legal action?
Carr, Omidyar, Lacy, and others debated this today on Twitter. We think these are important questions and would love to continue the debate in any forum. In the meantime, here's a Storify of the discussion: