The Apple enthusiast community was dealt a hard blow today after a leading insider news Web site, Think Secret, was shut down as part of a settlement with Apple, Inc.
Think Secret, which bills itself as “the source for Apple Macintosh inside information and industry news scoops,” has been up and running since 1999 and often accurately dished out product information before Apple could announce it.
Apple sued site creator Nick Ciarelli in 2005. The ongoing legal battle garnered mainstream press attention, and was fought for nearly three years until it was settled today.
In the subsequent press release early this morning, the site declared:
As part of the confidential settlement, no sources were revealed and Think Secret will no longer be published. Nick Ciarelli, Think Secret’s publisher, said “I’m pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits.”
One might make a bet that the pleasant nature of the declaration was part of the settlement; c’mon Nick, what do you really think about this?
Ciarelli, the Harvard undergraduate who started the site when he was 13, has received praise as a journalist and currently is an Executive Editor with The Harvard Crimson university newspaper.
During the year, Think Secret regularly is among the top 50,000 most-visited websites on the internet, according to Alexa traffic details. Quantcast says that the site receives more than 1.5 million visitors monthly.
The chilling effects of a corporation squelching an insider website is nothing new: In 1999, the insider website BlueOvalNews was sued by Ford Motor Company for releasing damaging confidential memos regarding the Mustang SVT Cobra. In that lawsuit, BlueOvalNews won. The site continued on and it was not until 2005 that BlueOvalNews agreed to cooperating with the automaker.
Apple’s victory, in some sense, opens up the door further in with regard to the continual conversation asking whether bloggers are journalists protected under the First Amendment. In a possible precedent directly involving Apple attempting to quash three other insider sites, a California appeals judge gave the Web sites immunity based on the right to publish.
During the heat of the battle two months after Apple filed on the matter, Ciarelli posted a press release stating, “We’re confident that Think Secret’s reporting is consistent with the right and privileges granted by the First Amendment.” (…) “
The settlement is largely confidential and further details beyond the facts that the site will cease publication and that insider sources will not be “outed” are yet to be released.