MEDIA MUSINGS: When should the media zip their lip?

Published on Media Musings (17/5/13)

The media have a responsibility to inform and protect the public from bad politics, natural disasters, and economic downfalls. They may wander to celebrity hook up’s and break-ups from time to time, but they know where their real job lies. This week, however, the media’s broadcasting of the 3D printable gun added fuel to an already dangerous public situation, and caused an explosion of interest that can not be reversed.

Cody Wilson, an American law student from Texas, has successfully designed and distributed the template to build your own fully functional, undetectable firearm illegally from the 3D printer in your future lounge-room. With the technology growing so rapidly, thanks to customer demand from stories like this, they are already being sold in US retail stores for $1299 USD for home use. The process is just as easy as burning a illegally downloaded movie onto a CD. Once the printer has been purchased, the software can be downloaded from the DefCad website, and after a simple assembly, its ready to be fired.

The more brazen coverage was the article posted by the Daily Mail’s “Mail on Sunday”. The reporters manufactured the pistol using their 3D printer, then demonstrated to the public how easily it could be “smuggled onto a packed Eurostar train”, proceeding to then pose for photos with the gun amongst unsuspecting travellers.

The sensationalism of this story, the idea that the internet users of the world could be mass-manufacturing, and patrolling the globe with their own pistol that is undetectable by metal-detectors, was journalistic dynamite. While Wilson was preaching that every human being has the right to own a firearm for protection, the media was streaming it televisions across the globe. The problem? Instead of looking on in horror, the public jumped onto their computers.

Reportage on the news became the perfect publicity DefCad needed for the Liberator. In two days, downloads of the plans hit 100,000 off their website, before the US Department of Defense Trade Controls forced him to take it down. Unapologitic, Wilson told a Mashable reporter that despite it being removed from his website, “it’s OK […] It’s all over the Pirate Bay, it’s in the Internet, there are mirrors of it. We’ve taken all the files down from public access, but the Internet has it safely.” In other words, look and you shall find.

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