Tomorrow must meet principles to promote freedom of expression and meet our duty to openness. However, there are cases where sources or interviewees must be protected, and we must put in place procedures to ensure people feel safe passing us information and news tips.
Our eighth principle to “Be a safe harbour for the public and staff”, is vital to maintaining the continuing process of journalism and developing trust in that process and in our stories by the public.
This section of Tomorrow details our procedures to meet the eighth principle and eventually allow you to safely send us information.
The Three Laws for Digital Systems and Journalists
For information and sources of information, we apply the following rules, developed by Tristan Stewart-Robertson in August 2011, from the notion of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.
Three Laws for Digital Systems and Journalists:
1. Digital systems must be designed to protect, to the fullest extent possible, personal data and its exchange and communication.
2. Journalists must pursue all stories deemed to be in the public interest, even where that may require challenging the security of digital systems.
3. Journalists must protect their sources as well as innocent public to the same extent as the digital systems of the First Law, where it would otherwise render the impossibility of the Second Law.
We live in a world where digital systems are constantly being attacked – some legitimately, such as when Middle Eastern countries switch off the web and hackers redirect the service; and some illegitimately, such as the hacking of bank details from corporations. Regardless, the default of any institution or company, including the media, must be to design and use systems that protect personal data. That ensures a measure of safety for individuals, even when they put far too much about themselves online, and may help reduce cybercrime.
The press have to investigate stories in the public interest, and sometimes that requires challenging what is strictly legal.
If a company was dumping toxic waste and, by hacking into computers or phones, reporters could prove that the company knew their actions were putting the public were at risk, then those actions could be justified because you’re helping protect human health.
The press does not protect our sources in a digital world, and at the very least that puts public trust in the media at risk, and perhaps in some cases even puts lives at risks.
Without a protection of sources and the trust that engenders, how can we possibly investigate stories in the public interest? Nobody would speak to us; nobody would buy us. Even if a media organisation is just interested in profit, not journalism, the Third Law is in their best interests.
In time and with financial support from donations, we will develop a suitable dropbox that ensures anonymity and anything that indicates origins will be destroyed immediately. Information supplied through this process, however, would be fully verified before forming the basis of any story.
The first law dictates our computer systems must do the most possible to protect those who use our service and supply their information directly (when posting comments) or indirectly when information is collected generally and cached.
The second law governs our journalism in general.
And the third law activates Safe Harbour Protocols detailed below.
Safe Harbour Protocols
Safe Harbour procedures kick in automatically for certain groups.
All children under the age of 14 are guaranteed anonymity unless waived by a parent or guardian (directly or through schools, youth clubs, or other organisations). Details of those children [for example names attached to court proceedings but not published], regardless of whether they are available via social media or through other media outlets, are archived for legal reasons but never revealed. Those children can later choose to waive their anonymity above the age of 14. A single identifying detail, such as an age, or home community, can be used in a publication, with permission, and provided it cannot be used to identify the child from within Tomorrow.is. We cannot ensure anonymity across all media outlets, only our own, but take our position seriously regardless.
Young people aged 14 to 16 are not named automatically but can waive anonymity themselves. We advise those young people to speak to an adult before making that choice but do not enforce any restriction on their right to free expression.
Any young person aged 14 to 18 is advised to use software such as Tor to protect against network surveillance, should they feel necessary in provided story tips etc. Any photos submitted will be checked and GPS or other identifying information removed. Social media messages such as Tweets to Tomorrow.is, when the age of the person is known, will not be repeated where it would expose the social media identity of the individual.
Photographs or videos in public places cannot always ensure children will not be within frame, particularly for breaking or major news events. But we respect the need for the privacy of a child and will do our best to limit such examples to those of significant public interest (for example, children injured within a conflict zone).
There are also examples in the public interest where children under the age of 14 must be interviewed, such as examples of child exploitation or abandonment, outwith permission of an adult. Anonymity is guaranteed and reporters take interactions with children very seriously, and specific training to interview children will be sought where possible.
“Justice must be seen to be done” is the eighth core principle of Tomorrow and we must report on the court system and its cases whenever possible. That exposes a great deal of information, almost all of it legally presentable to the public. However, we have chosen to make exceptions in some instances.
Family and Youth Courts:
Children cannot be identified, either directly or via identification of their parents or other details. In youth criminal cases, if of significant public interest, Tomorrow may apply to identify the youths. Tomorrow would justify such an application in court, but should also justify this to our readers.
Cases of sexual exploitation or violence:
All victims are guaranteed anonymity, even if not by the courts or other media, unless they waive that right. We cannot expect all media to have this policy, but believe it is right and will continue to enforce it for our stories. Details of victims from court papers, for example, must be kept for legal reasons but will never be used.
Immigration and Asylum Tribunal/Court Systems:
These appeals processes must be observed by the press. We recognise in some cases, those applicants can be vulnerable, either in their country of origin or of destination. But hearings held in open court must be reported accurately and fully. In cases of significant risk, Tomorrow may choose to withhold names used in open court.
Who does not get Safe Harbour protection?
Official spokesmen or spokeswomen for any organisation are not given protections and must be named in all cases. While politicians would not be protected, their children would be, except in the instances where their parents put them into the public spotlight.
Collection of data
Those interviewed for stories and features will be asked for basic details – name, data of birth, location, contact information – as a minimal assurance of accuracy, our second core principle. We require those basics even where your material is presented anonymously when Safe Harbour protocols have been deemed necessary.
Further details of our Safe Harbour protocols will be introduced in due course and as necessary.