New Type Of Whistle-Blower: Young, Internet Savvy And Headed For Jail

virtual whistle-blowers, man in Guy Fawkes mask
virtual whistle-blowers, man in Guy Fawkes mask

When NSA contractor Edward Snowden reportedly blew the whistle on two enormous government surveillance programs, he did it old-school, leaking documents to two esteemed reporters. But a recent report finds that more whistle-blowers are publishing the secrets themselves -- online (like the infamous hackers of Anonymous, pictured right). This leaves them vulnerable to employer-retaliation as the laws lag behind the new realities of cyberspace.

Miriam Cherry, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law and author of the report, calls them "virtual whistle-blowers." Unlike past generations, they're blogging, dropping surreptitious videos onto YouTube or leaking documents to online groups such as WikiLeaks, as Bradley Manning allegedly did. Cherry points to a growing army of "whistle-bloggers," employees who blog -- usually anonymously -- about illegal activities at their places of work. No state so far, she notes, has whistle-blower laws on the books to explicitly protect bloggers -- let alone the people who post YouTube videos or leak to Wikileaks.

This week, Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, is being court martialed for having given hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Deric Lostutter, an IT security consultant and member of the hacking group Anonymous, had published social media messages, photos and videos in which Steubenville, Ohio, football players ridiculed a teenage rape victim; now he faces far more prison time than the convicted rapists themselves.