Who’s Right: TechCrunch or Twitter?

By: Jeremy Muncy - July 21, 2009

This past Wednesday it was made public that 300+ confidential documents from Twitter had been stolen. While most industry related sites chose not to post these documents, a few did, most notably being TechCrunch.

Was TechCrunch wrong or right in publishing the stolen documents? Tell us.

To say Twitter is unhappy with TechCrunch would be an understatement. But, why is Twitter so angry? According to TechCrunch, Twitter had given them a green light to post the information:

"It’s important to note that we have been given the green light by Twitter to post this information – They aren’t happy about it, but they are able to live with it, they say (more on why they did that in our later post)"

Twitter CEO, Evan Williams (@ev) sees it entirely different, as you can see by his following tweet:

@Ev's Tweet to @Arrington

Taking the matter even further, Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone (@biz) updated the company blog where he reiterated Evan’s statement:

"…the publication of stolen documents is irresponsible and we absolutely did not give permission for these documents to be shared."

On Wednesday, this author wrote an article giving Biz’s response to various security concerns after the hack. He briefly touched on the legality of posting such documents:

"We are in touch with our legal counsel about what this theft means for Twitter, the hacker, and anyone who accepts and subsequently shares or publishes these stolen documents. We’re not sure yet exactly what the implications are for folks who choose to get involved at this point but when we learn more and are able to share more, we will."

TechCrunch has been receiving some serious flak for posting the stolen documents. Some loyal Twitter users have even began spreading the word that they’re boycotting TechCrunch from now on:

TechCrunch boycott tweet

TechCrunch boycott tweet

TechCrunch boycott tweet

InformationWeek has taken the TechCrunch vs. Twitter debate to a much higher level, asking Michael Arrington, founder TechCrunch, to step down.

"By publishing documents stolen by a hacker, Michael Arrington has proven he doesn’t have the judgment necessary to run a news organization. He should have the decency to step down."

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington defends his publication of the docs:

"There is clearly an ethical line here that we don’t want to cross, and the vast majority of these documents aren’t going to be published, at least by us. But a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it’s appropriate to publish them."

So, what are your thoughts on TechCrunch vs. Twitter?
Let us know what you think.

Jeremy Muncy

About the Author

Jeremy MuncyJeremy Muncy has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network since 2003. Google+: +Jeremy Muncy StumbleUpon: Jeremy-Muncy

View all posts by Jeremy Muncy
  • http://www.blogspot.com Leopold Stotch

    TechCrunch has crossed an ethical line and they’ll be dealing with the reprecussions of their actions for years to come.

  • Chase Daniel

    From Arrington’s quote:

    “…a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it

  • Lyle Stansbury

    Arrington has the moral compass of a 3rd grader.

  • http://www.technogati.com Technogati

    It seems that TechCrunch is right because nobody can publish any wrong informations and even TechCrunch published some documents also.
    Techcrunch is absolutely right.

  • Guest

    The answer is simple: TechCrunch F*cked up. They had no right to post the documents. Most of the other respectable sites didn’t do it.

    TC posted the docs – now they must deal with the consequences.

  • Enteprenuer

    Ill leave my comment here since TechCrunch apparently blocks people’s IPs who leave comments they or their buddies dont like. I cant leave a comment on TC anymore. The comment i tried to leave yesterday chimed in that as someone who comes from Journalism, has a Journalism degree, unlike Arrogantan, they are really in the wrong for publishing these stolen documents. Its probably even illegal, and certainly immoral and unprofessional. Dont know that ill boycott them, but like everyone else who agrees, will opt never to advertise with them, spend money going to an event, and wouldnt shake Arrogantan’s hand (not because he’s too important and we all suck like he has basically written), but because i dont shake the hands of losers. And whats up with him not liking the blimp for 23 and me. Get over it you friggin arrogant jerk.

    • Larry

      Yeah, I found that funny as well.

      Instead of responding to the Twitter alligations – he’s posted 2 seperate things about the “zepplin”.

      What an idiot.

  • Guest

    1) There is a difference between what is legal and what is ethical. Not everything that can be discovered should be broadcast to the rest of the world.

    2) In recent years, news has moved from being journalism to entertainment. Newspapers, television, and websites are competing to generate readers/viewers and must find ever more creative ways to keep our attention. This type of sensational controversy is great for TechCrunch because WE follow it in droves.

    TechCrunch is a bunch of a##h*&%# for publishing those documents. However, it was not an unexpected outcome because they are NOT a journalistic news outlet. They are an entertainment company desperately seeking attention. We encourage their actions by giving them the attention that they want.

  • Guest

    Arrington is a pompous cunt anyway. The only news here is that anybody is surprised.

    • Guest

      Disagree… a Co&k suc& a-hole

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham

    Why can’t people understand the difference between something “Ethical” and something “Legal”; Criminals also find holes to clear themselves legally in some cases but can we count it ethicaly?

    That said, these are stolen documents; so even if whoever gave a permission, we are dealing with something stolen! Imagine the situation was reversed!

  • http://www.anohina.com.ua/ ??????? ?????? ? ?????

    It was interesting to hear about it. Funny.
    Now I think they will be closer to this fall.

  • http://www.rsdarkness.com/ Michael Swan

    After reading a majority of the comments that have been placed with this post and the post itself; I believe that such abusive commenters should have their views (comments), even counted.

    Twitter had a security hole which allowed someone to hack their systems and steal such data.

    If permission to post documents was given then it should be in writting but in my mind permission was not given so posting information regarding the sensitive information was NOT Authorized and should not have been carried out.

    ~ Mike

  • http://www.exec-coach.info Vince Stevenson

    No, private documents should be published. It’s obscene. If I treated anybody with such disrespect, I would expect repercussions.

    Rgds Vince

  • http://www.tsworldofdesign.com/ Webmaster T

    Why, does it not surprise me the TechEnquirer acted like most bloggers and published this in the most sensationalistic manner possible. Using “excerpts” from stolen documents that out of context make twitter look rediculous… Billion users?… give good service to 10M first… then we’ll talk about a B. From what I’ve seen all about nothing and won’t scale. Good “Community concept” on a BS platform and technology that seemingly can handle the users it has now.

    • http://www.wilf.biz Wilf gerrard-Staton

      I think a big point is being missed here.

      These were stolen documents. Surely Techcrunch was committing an illegal act not by receiving them but receiving them, keeping them and distributing them. Isn’t this called receiving stolen property.

      If I received something that was stolen I would be charged with receiving stolen property.

      Why should this be different.

      Apart from that Had techcrunch got “written” permission to publish them. It is very easy to say someone at twitter gave permission. Why would Twitter be causing such a fuss if they had.

      Seems illogical to me.

      Wilf’s Website

  • http://www.bdv-unix-skills.co.uk John Harcourt

    I think it was a really bad error of judgement on Techcrunch’s part. What were they thinking of? John

  • http://www.the-earchives.com Bill Auclair

    What TechCrunch did was wrong, period. Such actions indicate a serious lack of journalistic integrity. Would they feel the same about stealing someone’s mail out of their mailbox? Their credit card information? Where does the line get drawn?

    TechCrunch screwed the pooch on this one, and Arrington should come clean and admit it.

    Bill Auclair

  • http://Twitter.com/SusanGrisanti Susan Grisanti Guitarist

    Tech Crunch!
    YES it STILL applies in CyberSpace~
    Next time someone posts YOUR stolen
    documents online, you will know how it
    Now how OBVIOUS IS THAT?

  • http://Twitter.com/GrisantiGuitar Susan Grisanti Guitarist

    AND Furthermore after reading the comments
    posted here, I think people on the WEB are
    forgetting the GOLDEN RULE,
    just in case you need a reminder it says….

  • http://www.vbplusme.com vBPlusMe

    If someone broke into my house, stoled all my property and gave it to a fence to distribute the stuff, both the burglar AND the fence are legally culpable if caught and prosecuted.

    Looks like the SAME issue to me? Techcrunch is the receiver and distributor or stolen good. Seems to me that this is tantamount to “industrial espionage” which we use to take seriously but now in hyperspace apparently not…

  • http://pawsville.net Mick Roberts

    Twitter is amazing, innovative, revolutionary and a vision become reality gone haywire. But is it also crumbling? TechCrunch comes into possession of documents, however questionably, then makes the decision to publish what they rightly knew would create a buzz around them. This is PR, pure and simple. You don’t get noticed unless you’re making BIG waves.

    Was it the right decision? Only time will tell. Was it ethically correct? Again, whoever survives will write the history. Can it be proven that TechCrunch broke the law? If it’s worth it to Twitter, and their claim that the documents were stolen and published unlawfully is proven, then TechCrunch will pay the price for their lack of discretion.

    But Twitter has some blame here as well – always the case when you ‘leave the window open and papers fly out.’ Twitter has so many windows open that the view from outside makes the app look like Swiss cheese.

    Rising complaints about violations of Twitter security and unenforced policies are beginning to look like an avalanche that started as a few snowflakes just a few weeks ago. Tweeters timelines are laced with comments from unfollowed people that can’t be blocked or unfollowed – because they weren’t followed to begin with and blocking has no effect. They can’t be gotten rid of and Twitter doesn’t seem to care. It’s almost as if the public timeline was “bleeding” into the private timelines. Numerous complaints are being fielded amongst the loyal twitterers about unblockable spammers

    In other ways, violations bridge the gap between callous disregard and outright felonious. Out of many such cases reported, one recently complained of some 4700+ friends being wiped out overnight by hackers.

    The 5800+ followers retaliated to some degree with 1200+ deciding to head for the hills at about the same time. 20% of two months work blown out overnight. Tweeters like followermonitor and its outlawed – but unchecked – army of serial named monkeybutlers contribute to these types of debacles by notifying the illegitimately unfollowed folks that they’ve been dropped by their former friends. This causes a cascading effect of ‘the humiliated unfollowed’ creating dissension amongst new and old twitterers alike, and angst ensues that threatens to disintegrate Twitter altogether.

    Die hard believers in the Tweet may persevere, but frustrated would-be’s will give up on such nonsense sooner rather than later, opting to have little or nothing to do with a service that one can spend invaluable time trying to build a community in, only to have the rug pulled out from them overnight by a lack of leadership and suitable security.

    If Twitter doesn’t step up it’s own security and begin enforcing it’s own policies with some real teeth, it may just be heading for a prompt and disastrous implosion.

  • http://www.deeho.co.uk SEO

    I think that it is to be expected that news, if it is deemed to be newsworthy, will be broadcast no matter how the news is discovered. It is unfortunate for Twitter, but isn’t that life? I am not in support of the hacker, not in any way, I detest his actions and those of people like him, but once the information was in the public domain, attacking a news organisation for publishing is starting to sound like censorship to me. Most news items are sourced through somewhat dubious means, where do you draw the line?

  • http://www.coffeedrinker.org Guest

    I say boycott the sillies who has decided to boycott techcrunch – short memories they have or what TC has been bigging up twitter for months – one less than holy story and your true colors show. turncoats!

    • Guest

      You’re a moron.

  • http://petitpub.com/blog Petit

    Once upon a time, Internet time wise- there was a highly regarded thing called netiquette, and every newcomer to the to the Word Wide Web was told to understand this unenforceable law.

    Far gone by now. Decency and netiquette is not really in the buzz.Being firts with the worst is the self promoting thing of the day.
    Fact of life? Yes, but sad nevertheless!

    In short – they were wrong to publish stolen docs.
    IMHO, that is.


  • Matt

    If this can happen to Twitter, it can happen to anybody especially content producers. TechCrunch did this on purpose–self-promotion as they’re hungry for publicity and Twitter with such massive following is a great target to get huge traffic and buzz. It’s becoming a scary (internet) world when your valuable information can be stolen and get publicised without your consent. And with this incident, I even doubted if every single post on TechCrunch aren’t stolen. Come on, read between the lines,
    “…a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it

    • http://Twitter.com/SusanGrisanti Susan Grisanti Guitarist

      Yes, I think part of it was the Green
      Eyed Jealousy monster, how sad &
      I believe in Cosmic justice still,
      so Tech Crunch better watch out for
      the backlash….

  • Guest

    Whether it’s ethicial or not is besides the point. It’s illegal to possess stolen goods. And since it crossed state lines, it is actually a violation of federal law. The FBI needs to step in and arrest those responsible.

    • mike

      you’re an idiot. A news publication is not responsible in any way to withhold or not accept items that may be new worthy regardless of their origin. Maybe you should know the laws before you start talking about them…

      • Guest

        So news organizations are exempt from the law for possessing stolen goods if it makes a good story? WTF are you smoking?

        • mike

          Sir. look up for instance Bartnicki v. Vopper. Wiki it if you need to. It was about an Illegal recording of a conversation that violated the ECPA. The court found that a news organization could play the tape if it was found to be news worthy and that they could not be held responsible for the third party who obtained the Illegal and stolen recording. There is tons and tons of case law for this situation.

          So that sir is wtf I’m smoking.

          • mike

            A broadcaster cannot be held civilly liable for publishing documents or tapes illegally procured by a third-party.

          • Guest

            That is a good point. However, in that case it was just that the wiretaps were illegal. Nothing was stolen, so it’s not possession of stolen property. In the Techcrunch case, they acutally received stolen property, and just the possession of stolen property is a crime. Now, if they had just reported the break-in with some details told to them by the hacker, then I’d say that they’re OK. They’re just reporting news about something that happened that was illegal, and you’d be right, they can’t be held liable. However, they took receipt of property that they knew to be stolen. That’s a crime.

  • Guest

    Because they decided to cry like bitches, I just deleted my Twitter account.

    Why boycott TechCrunch? Those ‘stolen’ documents were news. It’d be like boycotting the NYT because it printed documents showing banks were stealing billions of dollars. The source doesn’t matter with news, as long as it’s legit.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Of course Twitter is right and Arrington is wrong. Arrington has a history of doing stuff like this for self-promotion.

    The interesting piece of this is that John Dvorak proved long ago that making an ass out of one’s self can build page views. No doubt Arrington suffers from the same egomaniacal sickness and is willing to risk a lawsuit to drum up page views, ad clicks, or whatever it is that keeps his ego or bank account or both afloat.

    Most of us consider ourselves more ethically bound than the likes of Arrington or Dvorak but I wonder if each of us has a price beyond which we’d sell out. I’d like to think I don’t but until the situation arises I’ll never be sure.

  • Guest

    I advise the top governments companies and banks on Earth. From 1986 on I tell everyone to put all sensitive documents on computers with no network connections and no internet access, period. These companies are obviously not my clients. In addition, the philosophy of property consciousness in the world is primitive in my opinion. As I write these words is this a copyright? Do I own the words or word arrangements?

    Copyrights are like patents in many ways. Of the 157 inventions of mine the world uses to enjoy their modern conveniences is there one even patent? Nope. I get them free from my creative business mind. I make money hand over fist and I allow the world to use them and make as much money as they like competing with the originator so that I can live a world with more wealth all around me. AND I never run out of ideas. Why should I be the only filthy rich bast–d around for miles. It’s is better to give. When you register a patent in one country do the patent lawyer or some crooked clerk whisk it away to be sold in other countries?

    That might not seem like a relative analogy but it is if you think about what words and ideas are. Do I own the words I use in the English Language? Should I pay my grade school teacher for use of the words I arrange on paper or otherwise on any medium? When my clients are hit by hackers running hacker software is it the hacker software developer to blame? Does everyone realize fundamentally that all walls, dams, boarders, banks, safes, building and so on are pure illusions and only temporary security and NATURE demands that all walls will crumble over time.

    If you write it, it can and will be exposed. Whether that matters or not is another sorry story. What’s the big deal anyway? Sincerely someone tell me what the big deal is?

    Peace Out

  • http://www.choosingdomainname.com Marsha

    If the information included social security numbers, would we be so quick to write it off?

    It seems because we’re on the internet, we forget that not all information is up for grabs. Hackers used to get caught, sentenced to jail and the terms of their probation included no access to computers.

    Computer hacking is a huge concern in this country. What’s to keep someone from attacking your confidential databases and releasing them? Or the databases of the payment systems you depend on, like ClickBank, 2CheckOut, PayPal or Google and releasing documentation which includes financial information on you and your clients.

    Reporting that information was stolen is not wrong, but publishing the actual documents, just encourages more theft.

    As it stands now, credit card companies and retailers pay millions in bribes every year to keep confidential lists from being released.

    It’s in everyone’s self interest to shut this down.

  • http://ebook-site.com Bryan Quinn

    There’s been a mixed bag of comments on this one and I’ll reserve judgment for now. However, I don’t agree that any personal information should be published without the owner’s consent. With close to a million followers on Twitter, TechCrunch are walking on dangerous ground.

  • http://blondish.net Nile Flores

    First, TC should have been sure and not lied about being given permission to give such information. I am sure they had some permissions, but not that kind of permission.

    Should boycotting TC be a good retribution. Not really. In fact, hopefully TC will learn after this and go back to not getting into a bunch of wankage. For those who are disgusted, not visiting again might be the best solutions, but not always for everyone.

    Will TC issue a retraction? Hopefully, but that will not solve all the people who probably saved all of the screenshots on their article and all the damage it has caused.

    Common sense… seems to be something sorely lacking.

  • http://www.wilf.biz Wilf Gerrard-Staton

    I think a big point is being missed here.

    These were stolen documents. Surely Techcrunch was committing an illegal act not by receiving them but receiving them, keeping them and distributing them. Isn’t this called receiving stolen property.

    If I received something that was stolen I would be charged with receiving stolen property.

    Why should this be different.

    Apart from that Had techcrunch got “written” permission to publish them. It is very easy to say someone at twitter gave permission. Why would Twitter be causing such a fuss if they had.

    Seems illogical to me.

  • Guest

    A few points to bear in mind before burning Techcrunch:

    1. Techcrunch seemed to be not the only one in possession of the documents. As always in news, if anyone published, the info is not secret anymore, so that’ll have been some consideration for Techcrunch in publishing the documents.

    2. There clearly seems to be have been some conversation between Techcrunch and Twitter, acknowledged by both. Only now, both disagree about what was agreed. Perhaps because Techcrunch had an oerly optimistic view on what was agreed, or the other way around, because Twitter initially thought they had no options and said ‘Okay if you indeed leave out this and that’, and now has a change of heart after deep consultations with the lawyers.

    Hard for us to judge at this stage, but we’ll probably hear more about it

  • http://www.abundantace.com/ ace

    I’m all for Tech Crunch and anyone else willing to publish the documents.

    Sounds like there’s an ulterior motive as to why Twitter is so desperate.

  • Guest

    between a ‘leak’ and a ‘hack’, either way source party did not grant it’s release. I assume news organizations are no longer allowed to posses or published leaked documents?

  • http://www.mobilisemenow.com Armand

    As most of the commenters here would say, I believe Techcrunch is wrong. Technically and legally, they may believe that they have some “newsworthy” things to say and so (believes) they had the right the publish it.

    However, even though they think they had the permission from Twitter to publish it, unless they have written permission then their defence doesn’t stand at all. Verbally, they had nothing unless they can prove it otherwise.

    Ethically, they had no right to do it either. I’m sure if the tables were turned they would not like that to happen to them.

    A few years ago, I was really looking forward to all the articles posted by Techcrunch. Lately, I haven’t been as excited and the quality of the articles doesn’t seem to be as good as it once was. Mashable seemed to be a better preference than them.

    Not sure if this act by Techcrunch is an act of desperation.

    Just my two cents.


  • Guest

    in 2 years time neither Twitter nor TechCrush will be worth that much

  • http://texxsmith.com texxs

    Screw twitter, publish away. Shouldn’t be keeping secrets anyway.

  • http://www.mtuba4u.co.za mtuba4u

    Seems to me everybody fogot about the security issue, and no body is complaining about poor security or holes in security systems.

    how were these documents stolen, and why ?

    news is news, and there are many unethical methods used to obtain good, truthful news, but few are ever discussed or brought into the open.

    We will need to see who complains, and where the complaints lead to, but boycots are not good for business, as you usualy shoot yourself in the foot when you boycot somebody for reasons that are not clearly explained, or if there is no real policy and expected results are not clear.

    What is the reason for this sugested boycot, and what will be achieved ?

    many people will be without their information distribution tools, and many others will not be reading valuable information, which may make their life a lot easier.

    Loose, loose and loose again through boycots ?

    or live with the hand that life has dealt you and make the best of your personal situation …

    you choose, and live with your decision.

  • http://launchnow.ca Guest

    All this talk about stolen documents…who’s right and who’s wrong. There’s too much finger-pointing both ways for me to say who’s right (I wasn’t there).

    What I have not heard is whether Twiter has determined how the breach occured in the first place and what steps they plan to take to prevent this from hapening again in the future. As well, what were the nature of the documents – as Twitter user, has my privacy been violated?

  • http://www.BeginnersYogaSecrets.com beginyoga

    Well, this is a good point. Why the documents were stolen?
    In the Techcrunch case, they if in fact received stolen property, and it is a crime to possess stolen property. Let the law of land justify it.

  • George

    Another case of mob mentality/double standards in judging a case like this.

    I wonder how many people would go on a witch hunt against techcrunch if the company affected was google, microsoft, apple, or even facebook, instead of their beloved twitter.

  • http://thesgfcolumn.blogspot.com rf121

    On TechCrunch’s receiving end, those documents – stolen or not – their simply news. They didn’t do the hacking and if the documents weren’t Twitter’s it wouldn’t cause so much controversy. After all, it’s Twitter’s fault it got hacked.

  • http://vivacompanions.com/ Sergey

    Familiarly such but I can not recollect where already read