Jan 25, 2017

Times Tech Reporter's Court Tweeting Tale

New York Times technology reporter Mike Issac has written a "Times Insider" article (sub. req'd) on his experience covering the testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a patent infringement case in a Texas federal court.

While Issac had obtained permission to use his electronic devices in the courtroom from the presiding judge, he was asked to stopping tweeting after court personnel apparently discovered that his tweets were getting widespread attention, including repetition by other media.

Issac ran headlong into the federal courts' archaic policies regarding use of modern electronic devices, an issue that the courts have be struggling with for several years.

While expressing some frustration over his experience, Issac also has some empathy for judges and court personnel:
The trial — and its tribulations — was far from the troubles some of my colleagues deal with in the field. But it reminded me of how thorny issues remain in public speech and broadcasting, even to this day, as technology outpaces courtroom rules and precedent, and lawmakers struggle to define even in broad terms what should and should not be permissible. At best, the rules are fluid and flexible; at worst, they’re ignorant to the demands of the present.
This blog has chronicled many of these issues. Yet the courts continue to struggle as they try to adapt traditional court procedure to new technologies.

But in response to a reader comment, Issac concluded that the courts have to serious address this issue,  and come up with reasonable policies that meet the needs of the court while also preserving the public's right to view and be informed about trials, including through the proxy of a tweeting journalist.
I’m not saying it should be a free-for-all ... . I think a more comprehensive look at what the technology landscape offers today — far beyond just cameras or voice recording — might serve courts a little better in deciding what the ground rules should be.


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