Wikileaks backlash still being exploited to chip away at free-press rights

Wikileaks continues to cause problems for news organizations seeking to protect sources and information. The organization's document dump in autumn 2010 chilled the political environment and was probably a major reason the federal shield law never came to a vote on the Senate floor in the 111th Congress. Now the Department of Justice has convinced a federal District Court in Virginia that Twitter, Inc. should be compelled to surrender date stamps and IP addresses from user accounts held by three Wikileaks associates. While prosecutors will not be able to access the content of certain direct messages, privacy advocates and journalists alike are concerned that U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady's ruling (PDF) will allow prosecutors to unmask their authors. Although it won't serve as a direct precedent in cases in which reporters seek to shield confidential sources or the information they provide, Judge O'Grady's decision certainly won't help.