A Typology of Information Distribution Organizations
6 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017 Last revised: 22 Aug 2017
Date Written: March 30, 2017
Over the past several decades information distribution organizations (IDOs) have increasingly become the subject of law and policy considerations. IDOs are those organizations that play a significant role in the communication of information to news/information seeking audiences. These may include traditional news organizations, but also internet-based entities like Google and Facebook, and those agencies for whom the internet and digital communication technologies have now become indispensable tools. This paper investigates the ways in which IDOs create, use, distribute, and store information to create a taxonomy of these organizations and examine the many different categories of bodies.
The purpose of this taxonomy is two-fold. Definitions are important to considerations of privileges and responsibilities under certain laws. For example, many states have created so-called “reporters privilege” or shield laws. Key to many of these statutes is a requirement that the individual claiming the privilege be working for some kind of “news” organization. But the definition of news and that of information can be decidedly different. And conflicts about who may claim the privilege have arisen.
Definitional issues also arise with responsibilities required of IDOs by law. In the United States internet service providers, as many IDOs are, must be circumspect with how they handle the information they allow to be posted on their sites to have a safe harbor in libel law. Similarly, ISPs must comply with immediate requests to remove information alleged to violate copyright. These policies, and those like them, reveal the importance of how the organization interacts with information to the rights and responsibilities afforded. Of course, the consideration of how organizations exploit information is not solely a US policy phenomenon. The European Union conceptualization of the right to be forgotten, for instance, considers whether an organization is a data collector, controller, and/or processor, demonstrating, again, the importance of examining how these agencies use information.
This study, then is useful for considering the kinds of IDOs that are most subject to policy decisions and requirements. It also provides a deeper understanding of the many ways in which these organizations are and may be regulated.
Keywords: Information, News, Internet, Policy, Organizations
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