NY Times Reporter Discusses Squelching of WikiLeaks, Leaves Out Her PR Work for Group

July 14th, 2011 12:20 PM

In her Tuesday posting on the New York Times's Internet-news blog “Bits,” the unusually named Jennifer 8. Lee (a food writer and former Times staff reporter who now occasionally shows up to write posts for “Bits” and the paper’s local “City Room” blog) interviewed Rebecca MacKinnon of the left-leaning New America Foundation. MacKinnon was speaking at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh about the need to take Internet power away from private corporations and presumably hand it to the government.

Among the victims of private firms Lee brought up: the infamous anti-American anti-secrecy Wikileaks. But why didn’t Lee disclose she has done public relations work for the group in 2010?

Is the Internet due for a “Magna Carta moment?”

That is a question being posed by Rebecca MacKinnon, an Internet scholar at the New America Foundation, who argues that private corporations are exerting excessive power over the Internet and should have that power checked. Just as the English barons crafted the original Magna Carta in 1215 to constrain the power of the unpopular King John, she says, Internet users should organize and push back against the companies.

“The sovereigns of the Internet are acting like they have a divine right to govern,” said Ms. MacKinnon, whose book, ”Consent of the Networked,” will be published by Basic Books in January 2012. “They are in complete denial that there is something horrible they would ever do.” She gave a preview of her book at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday morning and in an interview.

Lee’s Exhibit A was Wikileaks, run by the anti-American and all-around oddball Julian Assange, which the Times collaborated with to splash secret diplomatic cables on the front page of the Times for several days running:

The control that companies exert over the Internet in areas ranging from banking to freedom of speech has raised increasing levels of concern, especially in the wake of the controversial WikiLeaks  release of State Department cables last year. Several companies constrained WikiLeaks, including Amazon, which kicked WikiLeaks off its servers after pressure from American lawmakers; PayPal, which suspended WikiLeaks’ account; and credit card companies, which refused to take donations for it.

Lee passed along those concerns about squeezing out WikiLeaks without squeezing in the fact she had done publicity work for Wikileaks in April 2010, when the group screened a clip at the National Press Club depicting a missile strike on a van in Baghdad that killed a Reuters driver and photographer.

Clint Hendler at Columbia Journalism Review dug out that fact (scroll down to Further update, #4) after citing one of Lee’s live Twitter posting from the screening (which did not disclose her Wikileaks publicity work) and having his curiosity piqued by the clip’s credit of a “Jenny Lee” for publicity help. Here’s Hendler’s last post update:

Just after 1pm, Jennifer 8. Lee acknowledged to CJR that she had helped WikiLeaks plan the roll out strategy, including working with YouTube to obtain an exemption for WikiLeaks to the site’s standard 10 minute video length limit. She added that she had not seen the video before this morning’s press conference.