Social Media Privacy Backlash Could Bring Tighter Regulation

Anonymous sources are an integral requirement of quality investigative journalism, but some in the media are taking the practice to new heights.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, “Anonymous sources are sometimes the only key to unlocking the big story, throwing back the curtain on corruption, fulfilling the journalistic missions of watchdog on the government and informant to the citizens.  But sometimes, anonymous sources are the road to the ethical swamp.”

At a time the war cry is often “drain the swamp,” media seems to be digging the hole deeper.

“And so they’re relying on these sources because they basically have one goal now and the goal is to take down Donald Trump and anyone who is with him, supports him, backs him, or is involved with the administration,” says Dan Gainor, media analyst with Media Research Center.

Some news organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, have applied modern technology to streamline the process.

“Right after Donald Trump took office several news outlets went to the effort of making anonymous sources even easier,” Gainor says.  On their websites, hyperlinks allowing anonymous posts were instituted, allowing government whistleblowers easier access to journalists without having to reveal their identity.

It’s not a new practice, though.  “The Pentagon Papers,” eventually revealed to have been the work of Daniel Ellsberg, were the product of an anonymous source when published by scores of American newspapers in the early 1970’s, and of course Deep Throat, the prime source in the Washington Post’s Watergate reporting, turned out to be an FBI guy named Mark Felt. 

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