Pando

Sony Pictures goes from attacking file hosts to bullying journalists

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 15, 2014

From The News Desk

A lawyer hired by Sony Pictures Entertainment has warned news outlets against reporting stories based on information released as a result of the November attack on its data servers.

It's unclear how many outlets received the letter: both the Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times have confirmed their receipt of the warning, but other publications which have also covered the leaks, like Gawker, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, remain silent.

The letter isn't Sony Pictures' first attempt to prevent this leaked information from spreading. It has also targeted the sites hosting the files with distributed-denial of service (DDoS) attacks meant to make it next-to-impossible for anyone to download the leaked files, at least in theory.

But there's a difference between trying to prevent stolen files from spreading and trying to bully the press into not reporting on the contents of those files. One is part of everyday life -- all businesses try to keep their files secure -- while the other is a gross attempt to convince journalists not to report on information which has already been made public via this attack.

And it's not like all the coverage of those files is unimportant, either. For every navel-gazing report on Sony Pictures' plan for another Spider-Man reboot or David Fincher's private email there's a story about the medical information leaked via this attack or a secret program that could "fundamentally alter the open nature of the Internet" through its mission against piracy.

The biggest problem with these leaks, at least for Sony Pictures, is that they're embarrassing. It would probably prefer it if the world didn't know about the "stunning gender and race gap" that has allowed only one woman to earn a salary of $1 million or more each year; 16 men have done the same. Or that (and this one's a shocker) not everyone in Hollywood likes each other.

But that's hardly an excuse to threaten news organizations with the audacity to report on stories that are clearly in the public interest. The family members of Sony Pictures employees should know their medical records were compromised via this hack. The public should know that Hollywood is once again working to undermine the ideas which allow the Internet to function. And non-male, non-white employees should be aware of gender and race biases at Sony Picture.

Still, you don't have to take my word for it. Just consider the fact that rape-shaming fabulist Aaron Sorkin condemned journalists' efforts to report on the leaked documents in an op-ed for the New York Times. If ever there were a sign that something is a bad idea, it's that Sorkin thinks it's stupendous and should be trumpeted in the place where journalism goes to die.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]