Has TechCrunch become the new TMZ of the Web? The influential tech site has been inundated with complaints after posting hundreds of confidential Twitter documents.
TechCrunch received a zip file from "Hacker Croll" containing 310 confidential Twitter e-mails. Content included notes from executive meetings, partner agreements and financial projections.
So, what was the point of leaking these documents?
Did TechCrunch really believe that the documents constituted news? Was the sketchy source -- "Hacker Croll" -- trustworthy? Or was this a case of pure sensationalism, akin to TMZ, Perez Hilton and other sites that "expose" the truth about names making headlines? Maybe TechCrunch was simply adhering to the old journalism maxim, "If it bleeds, it leads."
TechCrunch said that some of the documents contained Twitter employee e-mails which included a list of employee dietary restrictions, credit card numbers, calendars and phone logs of the employees. TechCrunch magnanimously drew the line at not posting documents that showed office floor plans and security pass codes.
In reviewing the documents, TechCrunch also said that the "vast majority of the [documents] are somewhat embarrassing to various individuals, but not otherwise interesting." As an example, the site said that some documents showed the names of people who interviewed at Twitter for senior-level positions, "so publishing their names would obviously be distressing for them."
"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," TechCrunch said in an article. "But a few of the documents have so much news value that we think it's appropriate to publish them what's interesting of the rest we are posting here with our commentary."
The "valuable" documents include a financial forecast, a pitch for a Twitter TV show, and confidentiality agreements with AOL, Dell, Ericsson and Nokia, Paypal and Gmail screen shots.
For some reason, TechCrunch seemed surprised that the majority of readers believed that the Twitter content should not have been posted.
"Wow, that's quite a reaction to our post earlier this evening saying that we will publish some of the confidential Twitter documents we've been forwarded, wrote TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. "Nearly 200 comments in a little over an hour, mostly saying we shouldn't publish."
The poll results showed that of 1,166 votes, 57 percent said that TechCrunch never should have revealed the Twitter documents and believed it was unethical.