One of the rules of Fight Club is "If this is your first night at Fight Club, you HAVE to fight." Analogous to a schoolyard brawl, where stolen lunch money is cause for retaliation, these two industry chums have come to blows over hacked documents.
On the one hand you have the number one microblogging system in the land losing confidential data through nefarious means and on the other you have 'said documents' showing up in the in-box of one of the leading techie weblogs in the US. Which leads to the ethical question: Does the media have the right to post a company's inner most secrets online without permission?
Is the media running with a story they have no authorization to publish? Aren't tech stories suppose to be dealt with in a civil manner, dissimilar to news breaking stories that are 'no holds barred?'. And if there is to be a knock-down-drag-out between the two, shouldn't they choose some rules of engagement before airing dirty laundry to the public?
Come on, even Fight Club had its rules... but before we make judgement, let's review the play by play in this WWW (World Wide Web) Smackdown, and see if we can determine who has the upper hand.
Initial Blow...On July 14, 2009, more than 300 confidential Twitter documents and screenshots landed in Techcrunch's inbox. Two days later they posted a good sampling of them online.
The documents included employment agreements, calendars of the founders, new employee interview schedules, phone logs and bills, alarm settings, a financial forecast, a pitch for a Twitter TV show, confidentiality agreements with companies such as AOL, Dell, Ericsson, and Nokia, a list of employee dietary restrictions, credit card numbers, Paypal and Gmail screen shots, and much more.
Sucker Punch..TechCrunch said it is working closely with Twitter to figure out “the right way to go about” publishing the documents. “It’s important to note that we have been given the green light by Twitter to post this information — They aren’t happy about it, but they are able to live with it, they say,” TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld wrote.
Up against the ropes, Twitter counter punches..Biz Stone, one of Twitter's co-founders responds in the company’s own blog post, in which he wrote: “The publication of stolen documents is irresponsible and we absolutely did not give permission for these documents to be shared.”
Into the ring, jumps Stone's tag team mate Evan Williams, Twitter's chief executive...Reacting to seeing some of some of his own personal records stolen by the hacker, he tweets to Michael Arrington, TechCrunch’s founder.
Final Blow...So if Fight Club has its rules, shouldn't the media? Shouldn't a respected blog like TechCrunch keep personal documents private? Not according to Mr. Arrington. He believes that if he didn't take advantage of the situation, someone else would. “We’re not the only people who have them,” he said. “There’s presumably a young hacker out there who wants to make a name for himself. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them wrapped up and thrown on BitTorrent at some point.”
Perhaps, there was was a more civil way to handle this situation before airing both company's dirty laundry. Instead of TechCrunch seizing the moment and appearing opportunistic, it might have been wise for them to have called Twitter and asked for a closed door meeting. Without that happening, now the back story has just as much clout if not more importance than the hacker's story. Perhaps TechCrunch could have saved themselves a lot of unnecessary grief and potential lawsuits, if they had kept things private and followed the FIRST RULE about Fight Club..."you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!"
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