A debate is raging over the role of the media as the Sony hacking cyber-attack shows no sign of letup. A day after receiving a “cease and desist” letter from David Boies along with other media outlets, TheWrap asked journalists and attorneys their view: Is it legitimate to publish the illegally hacked information from Sony Pictures Entertainment?
“Even though it can get very uncomfortable, even embarrassing at times, journalists must not be restricted from exercising their constitutional right of freedom of the press,” Joe Peyronnin, former VP at CBS news and former Fox News president told TheWrap. “On the other hand, it is incumbent on the press to carry out its role responsibly and legally.”
Analysts debated both the legal and ethical implications to publishing illegally obtained information that clearly interests readers.
Al Tompkins, The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online, noted how the information impacts society. “It is a story of significance, it affects a publicly traded company and obviously affects many people’s lives,” Tompkins told TheWrap.
Sirius XM host and Fox News contributor David Webb concedes the hacks aren’t pretty, but that’s not the media’s fault. “It’s not pretty, and it is the fruit of a poisoned tree because of the hack; however, the media has a responsibility to report.”
Wayne Giampietro, who serves as the General Counsel for First Amendment Lawyers Association, says the leaks from the Sony hacks are fair game for the media — as long as the media doesn’t cross the line.
“The speculation obviously is that it had to be someone inside the company, or at least someone who has access to these computers, but it’s hard to tell why really happened,” Giampietro said. “The most troubling aspect of the whole thing is if personal, private information about individuals like their social security numbers and banking connections get published; that’s troubling for the individual, because there’s a whole lot of regulation and statutes that says that kind of stuff needs to be maintained as confidential. I would hope that nobody is publishing that stuff.
“The other stuff, where somebody’s badmouthing somebody else, I don’t have any real problem with the media speaking or publishing that. It’s part of the story, and I don’t see any reason why they [the media] can’t or they shouldn’t,” he explained.
Trying to stop the bleeding in the ongoing leaks, Sony has hired high-profile attorney Boies, who demanded media outlets stop posting data leaked by hackers. Boies has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment on his objection to the media publishing content from the hacking.
Hackers identified as “Guardians of Peace” have been releasing documents since the Nov. 24 attack. Personal information on A-list stars, executives’ emails and salaries, business plans and employees’ medical records and social security numbers have been leaked in the ongoing data dumps.