The legendary technology law blog Groklaw is shutting down. Groklaw’s founder and operator, Pamela “PJ” Jones, wrote that in light of current eavesdropping, email is no longer secure. She went on to say:
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.
What to do? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it’s good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this.
I can’t help thinking that there might be more here than meets the eye.
If PJ had instead written that she was shutting down Groklaw for personal reasons, that the site had had its run but all good things must come to an end, the Internet community would have given her a hearty round of applause as she left the stage, in recognition of her amazing work over the years.
Instead we’re left to ponder how government surveillance could threaten Groklaw’s operation. The site’s bread and butter has been investigative journalism relating to technology litigation. Most famously, Groklaw tormented SCO during the company’s high-stakes but ultimately groundless copyright lawsuit against IBM. PJ had an amazing knack for getting the key document, or connecting the right dots, to pop SCO’s latest legal trial balloon. It’s not clear why the NSA would have wanted to stop this kind of journalism, or any of Groklaw’s other work.
The story would be different, though, if Groklaw were turning its attention to government matters. The NSA revelations are the kind of story where PJ’s style of journalism could be useful, where close reading of the available documents and dogged research in the public record could help to round out the public picture. If Groklaw were starting down this path, then PJ would be entirely rational to consider email eavesdropping as a threat to the site’s continued operation.
I have no idea if this is correct—it’s no more than an educated guess on my part—but I think it’s worth considering. On the other hand, perhaps PJ was looking for a tactful way to shut down the site and seized on the NSA eavesdropping as an excuse to shut down while making an attention-getting statement against email eavesdropping.
Whatever is behind the shutdown, PJ deserves that round of applause. I’m sad to see Groklaw end.