Groklaw Shuts Down As The Post-Snowden Chilling Effect Continues

Groklaw, a decade-old law blog run by Pamela Jones, has shut down citing the danger of increased email scrutiny. “The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too. There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum,” Jones wrote in a final post.

Equating NSA’s efforts at listening in to world communications to being robbed, Jones writes that she can no longer maintain the site – dependent on emails from readers – without compromising her ability to report on legal information related to the open source movement. The site was seen as a place for “lawyers and geeks” to meet to discuss issues pertinent to programming, networks, and FOSS software.

She writes:

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 standpont of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this….

There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel.

The response online has veered from the hagiographic to the cynical. It is sad to see an established and impressive site close up so quickly but, on a post-Snowden Internet, decision-making is swift and strange.