105 years in prison for investigative journalism?!

Barrett Brown, journalist and satirist, has spent almost a year in jail and now faces over a century in prison for copying and pasting a link from one chatroom to another in the course of journalistic research.

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The future of information sharing is in danger.

In a case that has set a dangerous precedent for journalists and average internet users alike, Barrett Brown is facing 105 years in prison for his activity as an investigative journalist. The journalist and satirist has already spent almost a year in jail on charges connected to his reporting on the intelligence firm, Stratfor. The firm had been hacked revealing information regarding the surveillance of Bhopal activists at the behest of Dow Chemical, of PETA on behalf of Coca-Cola, and of Occupy Wall Street under contract to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Brown copy-and-pasted a link that included the hacked information, from one chatroom to another to share the data he was researching with his peers. Though he was not involved with the hacking, and has never been accused of such, this act of sharing a link to already publicly available information led to charges including credit card fraud and identity theft. Brown was also charged with obstruction of justice in his attempt to protect his sources when served a warrant for his computers.

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His imprisonment has raised concern among journalists, as well as civil liberties and internet activists, some of whom have created a Free Barrett Brown campaign which is collecting funds to help cover his legal expenses. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published an article explaining the threat that the prosecution of Barrett Brown poses, by “criminalizing routine journalism practices” and our ability to freely share information through links or other means.

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