The New York Times tried to block UK readers from its detailed story about evidence in the London airplane bomb plot so as not to run afoul of British laws restricting such pretrial coverage. But The Guardian reports that it wasn’t — it couldn’t be — 100 percent effective for both technical and human reasons (i.e., bloggers copying the story for all to see). In this case, I assume, The Times’ motive was to not interfere with the prosecution of the case — not to get the terrorists off. But with the UK’s stricter libel laws, one could also imagine publications trying to play safe and restricting access to stories so as not to get sued. That, too, won’t work reliably. So all this raises a disturbing prospect: Will we find ourselves in a position where we need to publish to the lowest common legal denominator? Could China’s rules become our rules? And what will it take to protect us from that?
by Jeff Jarvis