Groklaw Shuts Down: Pamela Jones Cites NSA Surveillance As Reason For Tech Law Blog's Closure

  @ryanWneal on August 20 2013 1:03 PM

Following the recent trend started by Lavabit, the encrypted email service that closed down earlier this month in the wake of Edward Snowden exposing secret NSA surveillance programs, another website popular with the tech community abruptly shut down Tuesday.

Groklaw was started by paralegal Pamela Jones 10 years ago to cover legal news that affected the tech community. Jones said in a post that it would be the last Groklaw entry. Jones said that Groklaw depended on email collaboration, and that NSA surveillance of emails makes it impossible to continue running the website.

“They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the U.S., it will be read,” Jones said in the final Groklaw post. “If it’s encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge.”

Groklaw started in May 2003 with an article that examined the effect of P2P file sharing on the music industry. Groklaw attracted attention with its second article, which took on The SCO Group’s attack on IBM over the intellectual property of the Linux and Unix operating systems. Jones shared some of the most esoteric details of the case on the blog to give the tech community a full understanding of the case. Volunteers attended several of the hearings in person to collaborate on the coverage.

The reporting helped Groklaw win its first award, the editor’s choice award for best news site from OSDir.com. Groklaw has since won several awards and is often cited by attorneys in law journals, and it has remained especially popular with the open-source software community.

“[Groklaw is] a place where lawyers and geeks could explain things to each other and work together, so they’d understand each other’s work better,” Jones said in a message to the Free Software Foundation in 2008.

The primary focus of Groklaw has been patent infringement, digital rights management and open-source licensing. Other popular articles have been about the EU’s anti-trust case against Microsoft and the standardization of Office Open XML.

Jones said that the closing of Groklaw was inspired by Lavabit, the encrypted email service that Snowden used to leak data about NSA programs like PRISM and XKeyscore. Lavabit’s founder feared it would soon be under investigation due to its relation to Snowden -- if it wasn’t already -- and didn’t want to infringe on the privacy of other users. Other encrypted email services, like Silent Circle, closed down shortly afterward.

Without secure email, Jones said Groklaw also couldn’t exist.

“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email, and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too,” Jones said. “There is no way to do Groklaw without email.”

Not only is Jones shutting down Groklaw, she is also taking herself completely offline.

“For me, the Internet is over,” Jones said. 

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