A dispute between the town of Fullerton and local bloggers has become a nationally watched free-speech case as a result of it highlights the lengths to which some companies will go to disclaim entry to information that assist the general public to oversee the best way authorities operates. In this case, the town sued the bloggers to cease them from publishing embarrassing details about its police division.
The case includes Joshua Ferguson, a blogger for the watchdog Friends for Fullerton’s Future. The blog routinely makes information requests, and after one request the town gave the blog entry to a cloud-sourced Dropbox account. The account, nevertheless, was not password-protected, and the town claims the bloggers “hacked” metropolis information they weren’t alleged to entry.
The metropolis sued the bloggers, in search of to cease publication of the knowledge and asking the decision to authorize a skilled to look by means of the bloggers’ computer systems.
An Orange County courtroom authorized the gag order — one thing free-speech organizations say is a transparent violation of the First Amendment. The courtroom refused the town’s request to rummage by means of laptop information.
Fortunately, the appeals courtroom briefly blocked the order, which leaves the blog free to publish what it chooses. The litigation is Orwellian. City officers don’t know — and the bloggers aren’t saying — how the blog obtained the knowledge it printed. That the town lacked safety protections is proof of its lack of due diligence, not of laptop hacking.
As the Voice of OC reported, the blog printed “details of a draft agreement between a former police officer and the city to shield potential misconduct records from disclosure law.” The blog additionally printed details about a former metropolis supervisor who allegedly “got a ride home from police after drinking and driving and crashing his car in 2016.” City residents should know such issues.
Reporters and the general public shouldn’t be ensnared inexpensive authorized battles by governments in search of to relax the discharge of data.
Fullerton ought to drop its lawsuit and — if it believes that info got here from its personal unprotected account — get some skilled recommendation on how one can password-protect its information.