Stolen Documents Fair Game In Reporting The News?

I have tremendous respect for TechCrunch because the tech blog is innovating and changing the business of technology news. It is fiercely competitive in reporting big news first, as well as providing meaningful analysis. I’m ok with its trafficking in rumors, because the site is dynamic and allows correction and healthy debate. TechCrunch has pioneered news-as-process versus news-as-product, and the former is the inevitable future. Working at a tech start-up, I have firsthand knowledge of TechCrunch’s power to drive awareness and Web site traffic, and influence reputation. Its team has worked hard to become the single most important technology news site. Impressive.

But I wonder about its recent decision to publish (and justification) a selection of 310 stolen, confidential documents from Twitter. Sure, the documents would’ve showed up elsewhere, but TechCrunch injects incomparable visibility, attainable by few other news outlets, if any. Ultimately, TechCrunch garnered a lot of page views, but I wonder how much good it did for the technology and business community. At times, stolen documents can be fair game in reporting the news. I’m not sure of the justification in this case, but I am sure it’s a seminal test. It probably will result in important precedent that will reshape our thinking of the news business. What do you think?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. Maybe this move might turn out to work in Twitter's favor. And it's cool to learn all this stuff — it's like rubbernecking. But favorable or not, that's after the fact, and it doesn't matter. TechCrunch is clearly being unethical.

    Unethical, wrong, and shortsighted.

    As I commented on that post over at, I look at it as TechCrunch becoming the tabloid of social media. “Hey Paparazzi (i.e., hackers), now you know where to send/sell your stolen documents to.”

    Personally, I'm appalled. It's setting a very dangerous precedent. Watch how many pounce-happy hackers are rubbing their hands together right now.

    As I said on Twitter, “Report the news, sure. Report highlights of some of the stolen content, maybe. But republishing it for all to see? Even if cherrypicked, it's wrong.”

    Stealing content and reporting about the theft is one thing. But profiting from that theft is another. And TechCrunch is clearly profiting from it. Not monetarily (I don't know for sure), but unlike Paparazzi who will sell their illicit pics to tabloids, TechCrunch is getting an insane amount of traffic from this right now. And exposure. And buzz all over the web.

    Profiting? Indeed.

  2. The whole thing was sleazy. I've totally lost respect for TechCrunch and have unfollowed them.

    Social Media is about hanging out with people you like and respect, if I wanted the juicy unethical news crap, I would be spending my time watching broadcast news.

  3. – Twitter owns the documents.

    – The documents were stolen.

    – It's a sure bet that Twitter did not grant permission to TechCrunch to publish and thereby profit from their publication.

    – We don't know how much of Twitter's intellectual property and/or trade secrets were contained in the documents.

    – I smell a lawsuit. If I were Twitter I'd sue the daylights out of TechCrunch, assuming the documents contained intellectual property or trade secrets.

    – I think TechCrunch is about to find out the true meaning of the word “crunch”.

  4. well publishing of the stolen docs is definitely is not a fair deal… however it will mark the beginning of the more such things in the web world… which is indeed not good for the people and the businesses operating online

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