As you most likely already know, Techcrunch received a load of confidential documents that belonged to Twitter from a hacker who compromised Twitter. Everyone exploded in outrage that Techcrunch was going to publish some of the documents. Others thought it might be illegal to publish the documents, but some have weighed in saying it isn’t, and since Arrington used to be a lawyer, I doubt he’d make the mistake of going too far over the line there.

Twitter responded. Ev responded incredulously to TechCrunch claiming that it had Twitter’s blessing to post the documents. Techcrunch released what it is saying will be its final post with leaked documents from Twitter in it. Valleywag complained that TechCrunch avoided publishing some of the biggest scoops in the confidential, leaked documents, and also bragged: “Leakers should come to us instead; if and when we use your stuff, we won’t go half-assed about it.”

So, yes, now we have horrible precedent in place and script kiddies and blackhat hacker types will be trying to crack info wherever they can, not just to bring down the site with some bragging message, but to get discussed on TechCrunch, dominate Techmeme for a day, and next time maybe release the information to Gawker in hopes it all gets published and they can brag nicely to all their script-kiddie peers.

What I’m surprised no one is noticing about this story is the selectivity of what information was released. TechCrunch regularly leaks information, although this is the first time it was stolen information (at least that we know). The thing I keep wondering is how often and under what circumstances does TechCrunch choose not to leak information? What sites or businesses does Arrington have a relationship with that keeps him from leaking the information? I’m sure there are a few from his investments, and perhaps a few others. Although it’s hard to say what type of effect these relationships have. I mean, Arrington is an investor in Seesmic, TechCrunch reports on Seesmic regularly, and Seesmic’s future is now drastically intertwined with Twitter’s, so it’s hard to say. What if Seesmic and Twitter had been in some sort of talks and documents referring to those talks were included in the unreleased pile of the stolen documents? That’s one example of the big unknown behind this entire story. There is possible bias here.

I’m interested to see if anything develops from all this noise. I’m doubting anything will, but you never know.

4 thoughts on “The issue isn’t (just) ethics; the issue is bias

  1. Totally agree with what you’re saying, but not so much the headline. Ethics *is* still the issue (as you point out with the bit about script kiddies). It’s just that Arrington’s investments is *another* ethical issue.

    And I’m glad to see that people are finally calling him on it.

  2. There would be no issues of ethics or bias if Arrington and TechCrunch had done the right thing: delete the material as soon as they confirmed it was obtained illegally.

    It’s one thing to go out there and find information yourself and publish it. That’s called reporting. It’s another thing to receive information that was obtained illegally and do anything other than delete it.

    I’ve seen some comments here and there essentially arguing that this is just how it is on the Internet; that it’s all fair game. On that, I call shenanigans. Behavior online should be no different than behavior anywhere else — one set of rules. If you exhibit a lack of ethics online, I must assume you are similarly lacking in meatspace. I’ll treat you accordingly.

    Michael Arrington, if we ever meet, don’t hold out your hand for me to shake. You might end up with my spit on your face.

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