Op-ed: Charges against journalist Tim Burke are a hack job

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Caitlin Vogus is the deputy director of advocacy at Freedom of the Press Foundation and a First Amendment lawyer. Jennifer Stisa Granick is the surveillance and cybersecurity counsel with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. The opinions in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Ars Technica.

Imagine a journalist finds a folder on a park bench, opens it, and sees a telephone number inside. She dials the number. A famous rapper answers and spews a racist rant. If no one gave her permission to open the folder and the rapper’s telephone number was unlisted, should the reporter go to jail for publishing what she heard?

If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And yet, add in a computer and the Internet, and that’s basically what a newly unsealed federal indictment accuses Florida journalist Tim Burke of doing when he found and disseminated outtakes of Tucker Carlson’s Fox News interview with Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, going on the first of many antisemitic diatribes.

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