In the age of the Internet, more and more information becomes available for the public in a way that has never been accessible before. With every passing year, week, day it seems that there is a new innovation for ensuring the most transparent world that society has ever witnessed. But when should this crusade for a conspicuous society be balanced against a person’s right to privacy and peaceful life?
As noted in my previous post, Donald Trump is not a fan of an open media speaking their mind, especially when it comes to him and his policies. Trump said, during the campaign trail, that he would “open up” libel laws. Any average law student is aware that it is not up to the President to “open up” libel laws, but rather a state’s decision, which is then constrained and trumped by First Amendment rights. Nonetheless, there is a balancing act that online publishers should perform—will the information truly add to the free flowing exchange of information the internet and free speech strive for, progressing toward the goal of transparent government and a more knowledgable society? Or is the information merely gossip and smear?
Buzzfeed recently weighed these scales of justice, when they published a dossier compiled by a British investigator that details some alleged information Russia had on our President. The decision to publish an unsubstantiated report had many media outlets questioning at what point the duty to report on government officials was outweighed by journalistic ethics. Buzzfeed decided the former weighs heavier, which is congruent with Supreme Court precedent, “that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide‐open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
The balance we seek for online speech should follow this precedent. Internet publishers should keep public officials accountable for their actions, yet strive to protect private citizens, respecting their choice to lead a private life. If Trump did not want to air his dirty laundry, he should not have become a public servant.