What better way to respond to the evidence of government overreach and criminality in the spying by the NSA and other agencies than to try to change the subject by smearing the people who are funding the reporting on it to us? This latest round of the media battle should not be surprising. In fact, it's all too predictable.
The government's actions against WikiLeaks in 2010 and companies' reactions to that pressure, as well as the prosecution of the PayPal 14 raise critical questions about the nature of the First Amendment in the digital age. The First Amendment is primarily a restraint on government intrusion and a bedrock principle of our society. How do commercial interests interact with those protections? How does government ensure space for free expression online when there are no public sidewalks or street corners? How can unpopular dissent resist government pressure when that dissent depends on commercial Internet providers to reach its audience? These are vital questions in today's society.