Mass surveillance is a big deal, and Columbia’s Tow Center wants to ensure the issue gets the attention it deserves. The Journalism After Snowden project just got a boost worth $150,000 from the Knight Foundation, which will allow the Tow Center to explore how journalism will function in the age of surveillance.
The initiative supports a yearlong series of events and research articles in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism Review.
An #AfterSnowden event will convene in San Francisco on June 18, complete with solutions and best practices for addressing source protection and other issues in the current surveillance state. Plus, Edward Snowden colleague and The Intercept journalism Glenn Greenwald will round out the event with a presentation on his NSA surveillance reporting (consider brushing up on your Greenwald knowledge with an extensive piece I wrote after his SXSW talk earlier this year).
In a blog post for the Knight Foundation, Tow Center Research Fellow Jennifer Henrichsen and Research Director Taylor Owen wrote a fascinating explanation of the challenges set before us:
“Metadata can reveal journalists’ sources without requiring officials to obtain a subpoena. Intelligence agencies can tap into undersea cables to capture encrypted traffic. Mobile devices, even when powered off, can be remotely accessed to record conversations,” the two wrote.
Then, they define the “core” tasks for journalists during the mass surveillance age in three bullet points:
- Journalists and media organizations need to get serious about source protection through digital tools like Secure Drop.
- Journalists and technologists need to become better acquainted , as should journalists and researchers so that media orgs can better identify digital attacks against journalists, “ascertain potential trends and identify possible solutions.”
- Journalism educators should become well-versed in issues of digital security and begin preparing future journalists for the surveillance issues ahead.
I, for one, am glad to see Knight and Tow taking on this issue head-on. Honestly, more than falling print revenues or digital ethics issues, I believe mass surveillance is the most pressing issue ahead of the journalism industry. You can read the entire blog post here for more on this effort, and follow along with the #AfterSnowden hashtag on Twitter. We’ll be following the research coming out of the Tow Center, too.