Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Metadata Laws, Journalism and Resistance in Australia

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Abstract:  The intelligence leaks from Edward Snowden in 2013 unveiled the sophistication and extent of data collection by the United States’ National Security Agency and major global digital firms prompting domestic and international debates about the balance between security and privacy, openness and enclosure, accountability and secrecy. It is difficult not to see a clear connection with the Snowden leaks in the sharp acceleration of new national security legislations in Australia, a long term member of the Five Eyes Alliance. In October 2015, the Australian federal government passed controversial laws that require telecommunications companies to retain the metadata of their customers for a period of two years. The new acts pose serious threats for the profession of journalism as they enable government agencies to easily identify and pursue journalists’ sources. Bulk data collections of this type of information deter future whistleblowers from approaching journalists, making the performance of the latter’s democratic role a challenge. After situating this debate within the scholarly literature at the intersection between surveillance studies and communication studies, this article discusses the political context in which journalists are operating and working in Australia; assesses how metadata laws have affected journalism practices and addresses the possibility for resistance.

Keywords:  digital resistance; journalists; metadata; surveillance



© Benedetta Brevini. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.