With this year's "ag-gag" law, Wyoming has made it a crime to gather evidence of agricultural wrongdoing, from illegal pollution to animal cruelty, even from public land -- and also prohibits regulators from acting on information gathered in violation of the law.
Many public interest groups are challenging the law. A similar -- but less Draconian -- law in Idaho was struck down this year as unconstitutional.
In the Wyoming litigation, the groups describe the legislation as the "Data Censorship Statutes." They impose up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, and civil trespassing liability for people who enter open lands without permission (PDF) to collect "resource data." The suit (PDF) describes "resource data" as "pictures of noxious weeds, samples of polluted water, videos of injured animals, or even notes on the landscape—and then communicate that data to a federal or state government agency."
"The Data Censorship Statutes not only obstruct the ability of Americans to collect and communicate such resource data to government agencies, they also require government agencies to ignore—and in some cases, to expunge—resource data that a member of the public or the media has collected from open land in Wyoming without express authorization," says the suit. "The Statutes are thus designed both to truncate public involvement and to require government agencies to act in ignorance."
The National Press Photographers Association said Wyoming has "unjustifiably put photojournalists at risk of civil suit and criminal prosecution" and said the legislation is a "blatant violation of constitutionally protected freedoms of the press that are the hallmark of this nation."
There are laws making it illegal to collect data on open land
[David Kravets/Ars Technica]