Last Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the Free Flow of Information Act, which would create a federal “shield” law to protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources. The current bill goes farther than past versions as it not only covers professional journalists employed by the mainstream media, but also covers “commercial” bloggers. Many bloggers are lauding the bill, of course, while the Bush administration, and other opponents of the bill, believe it it defines journalist so widely that anyone with an Adsense account now qualifies for protection.
While I’m always happy to see the government stymied in its attempts to gather still information, even if this bill is passed it will have almost zero impact in the current political environment. A court may still compel any evidence should it decide that a crime may have occurred, national security may be at risk, or trade secrets may have been violated. In other words, courts will no longer be able to compel journalists (or paid bloggers) to reveal their sources or share their source documents unless a court is interested in seeing them.