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Felony For Refreshing a Web Page? 965

Posted by Zonk
from the dangerous-pixelantes dept.
therandomw writes "An 18 year-old boy was recently arrested in Ohio for telling fellow students to refresh the schools web page in order to slow down the server. He is being charged with a felony and is currently being held in jail. According to Canton City Prosecutor Frank Forchione 'This new technology has created a whole wave of crimes, and we're just trying to find ways to solve them.'"
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Felony For Refreshing a Web Page?

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412514) Homepage Journal
    This problem can be solved through software already -- the school didn't take necessary means to avoid such a simple "DoS" style attack.

    Even so, it seems crazy to me to waste taxpayer dollars chasing down this citizen and even more dollars prosecuting him. While the law is supposed to be around to protect property, I don't see how this is a felony. He didn't do the refreshing, did he? He used his right to speak freely.

    I'm sure I'll hear the standard arguments about how speech can be regulated and I repudiate all of them. Crying fire in a theatre is private property -- the Constitution protects nothing on private property and the theatre owner is responsible for setting the standards of speech. Telling someone how to make a bomb is also free expression/speech -- you're not making the bomb. In this case, if clicking excessively is a crime (I can't believe it would be), the people who did the act should be indicted.

    I'd love to see what real crimes are happening right now in Canton City -- murders, rapes, thefts. Speeding tickets and telling people to refresh a website repeatedly are nothing compared to real property crime. The last quote about trying to solve them reads more to me like they're "trying to find ways to exploit them."

    For the school -- they can now expect this to happen more often. The publicity in charging this guy is going to be mostly negative in the minds of the students. All we need now is to get the link visible on slashdot, right?
  • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cyberbob2010 (312049) <cyberbob2010@techie.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:28PM (#14412645) Homepage Journal
    The fact that they all were doing it doesn't land the blame soley on his shoulders either.

    If it is bad enough to be considered a felony then why aren't the rest of them being charged with at least something?
    If I get a group of people together and tell them to all drive out there and pass stopped school busses then do I go to jail for commiting a felony?? Yes, I do. The people who passed the bus? Its not like they are getting out of it for pointing and saying well he told me so!!! May sound kind of stupid but I am a product of the Ohio schools and I know the kind of BS administrators there will try and pull...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:34PM (#14412707)
    Is it a crime to march lockstep across a bridge? Once they fish your mangled body from the water, I mean.
  • by jfern (115937) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:36PM (#14412726)
    It's been Slashdotted due to lots of felony web page refreshings. The irony.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:47PM (#14412829) Homepage Journal
    So if I tell someone to shoot the principal that would be exercising my free speech?

    In my anarchocapitalist belief system, yes.

    This country was founded on the idea that you can say what you want to say as long as you don't physically harm another person or their physical property. The initial revolt was no different than "We should defend our rights, and in doing so we will kill in defense."

    I think inciting a riot or inciting others to do violence is still free speech -- the person who riots or performs violence is the person who commits a crime.

    If the day comes for revolution, I don't want to see the government using speech to jail "traitors."
  • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AxemRed (755470) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:50PM (#14412868)
    I agree that what he did amounts to a DDoS attack. That's what it was, but on a small scale. But I feel like, the punishment should fit the crime.

    When someone steals $50000, they get charged with a felony and go to jail.
    When someone steals $10, the get charged with a misdemeanor and get community service.
    When someone steals $10 at high school, they get suspended.

    When someone speeds 50mph over the speed limit, they get their license suspended.
    When someone speeds 15mph over the speed limit, they get a $100 ticket.
    When someone speeds in the high school parking lot, they get detention.

    Now lets try this...
    When someone mounts a large-scale DDoS against a major portal, they get arrested and charged with a felony
    When someone mounts a tiny DDoS against their high school, they get... arrested and charged with a felony?

    //You get my point. He deserved a week suspension. Why can't schools handle things in-house anymore?
  • huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tacokill (531275) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:53PM (#14412905)
    "inciting detrimental group behavior is far from a new thing, and should be punished."

    So I suppose you are for punishing Ghandi? Or Martin Luther King, Jr? Or any one of many other civil disobedians.

    I realize this isn't civil disobedience but my point is this: punishment is not always the best answer.
  • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ebyrob (165903) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:54PM (#14412908) Homepage
    but that's only really as accurate as trying to separate legitimate city traffic from criminals by assuming that anyone on foot is a burglar.

    Note: If you assumed foot-traffic was criminals you'd also instantly make things like public demonstration illegal...

    Which is interesting, because having lots of people manually refresh a page is a lot more akin to asking a whole crowd of street people to come hang out in your school parking lot and make it impossible to park versus say throwing down caltrops.

    Which one is illegal, and what constitutes a felony is something that needs some consideration. It seems quite clear that a DDoS using hijacked systems is far worse than what this kid did.

    If your intent is to take the server down, that's illegal.

    So, if I post a story to slashdot with the intent of taking out a server that makes it illegal? Quite a bold and interesting statement of law there. I'd sure like to hear your precedent.
  • by cutecub (136606) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:01PM (#14412983)
    America,

    For the last 25 years you have been voting for a Police State. And now that's exactly what you have. Congratulations, Democracy really works.
    Now shut up, bend over and take it like a man.

    -S
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:13PM (#14413096)

    You fail logic. Unless of course it was your intention to imply that Ghandi's and King's actions were "detrimental". I've always thought of them as positive actions.

    And you fail philosophy and politics. Did you think the people Ghandi and King were acting against thought their actions were positive? I'm pretty sure the British Government, and many US State governments (as well as many people of the time) didn't hold your view that these were positive actions. These are also the people with the power to prosecute. Get it?
  • by symbolic (11752) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:18PM (#14413136)
    That server (or those servers) are getting a real workout - this was also on digg a bit earlier.
  • by mindaktiviti (630001) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:19PM (#14413143)

    The Corporation [thecorporation.com] tries to answer this question. Pretty cool documentary. It's slightly left-leaning but it does show the opinions of both righties and lefties as well as ex and current CEO's from various huge multinational corporations. Very interesting.

    If you don't want to purchase or rent it, you can find a torrent on Sweden's favourite torrent site. [thepiratebay.org] :)

  • by KevinKnSC (744603) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:19PM (#14413144)
    From Senate Bill Number 146 [state.oh.us] (enacted a few years ago):

    In Sec 2909.04, (B) No person shall knowingly use any computer, computer system, computer network, telecommunications device, or other electronic device or system or the internet so as to disrupt, interrupt, or impair the functions of any police, fire, educational, commercial, or governmental operations.

    (C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of disrupting public services, a felony of the fourth degree.

    So, there's the law. We now return you to the discussion of whether this is an overreaction or not.

  • This is soooo wrong! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:36PM (#14413281) Journal
    Caution liberal/liberitarian/green content (rant) ahead!

    For some reason I feel like I should have seen something like this coming. Frankly the criminal justice system in the United States is absolutly ill-equiped to deal with technology crime. In general, it is a system that has morphed into a plea-bargain machine that charges people with the most henious crime they can make fit and then work on reaching a "equitable sentence" through a plea-bargain. Ultimately the student will be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge (it this case, probably a misdemenor).

    There are a few things about this system that are GROSSLY UNJUST!

    First, there are no rules that allow both sides to play the game evenly. The prosicutor makes them up as he goes along and changes them when and if he wants.

    If you can't afford an attorney (and what eighteen year-old high school student can?) you will probably be appointed a public defender who is over-worked, under-paid and probably only a couple years out of law-school. He (or she) will consider it a victory if they can get the plea-bargain down to a misdemenor (even if no crime was committed).

    If the kid's parents can afford a (good) private-practice lawyer they will have to pay thousands if not tens of thousands for the defense. There are a couple of reasons for this, one is that the lawyer knows they can get that kind of money from those kinds of people. Another reason is that the lawyer will have to hire experts that can educate him about the technology just so he can get an idea of what the charges really are about. Finally, if it makes it to court, there will have to be money to pay the experts to come in to court and testify. Naturally, the lawyer will want all of this money up front.

    On the other side of the table, you may be facing a lawyer who wants to make a name for himself. He is aware of the failures of the system and knows how to exploit them to achieve his goals (personal or political). If the defendant gets a public defender he knows to prey on the over-worked defender and will offer a bad-deal that is just good enough to make the public defender sell it to the defendant. He also knows that the public defender has very little money for expert witnesses. If he faces a private practice lawyer, he will fight a delaying action, not offering much of a deal knowing that the cost-to-fight will soon bankrupt most people. He too can play the expert-game, only he has a county IS geek as a professional witness (so it costs him very little).

    Don't forget, the state's attorney is graded on his conviction rate (not on if justice was served). His raises and promotions depend on a good record with a high conviction rate.

    This is a system that is so broken it deserves to be tore completely down and rebuilt. You don't have to be an innocent man on death row to feel the injustice. Criminal Justice deserves two sides that are equally capable, equally funded, and fair for people of every income level. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company deserves the exact same treatment that a homeless windo deserves. Justice needs to be blind to status, race, gender, faith, orientation, or anything else (other than justice). It is the United States greatest failure as a country (although the health care system comes damned close).

  • by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:12PM (#14413570)
    No, it doesn't seem like hyperbole to me. I'd add abuse of power under cloak of authority (I'd need to look up the relevant Ohio statues, but I'm sure they exist)...only that's a felony, which means that the prosecutor needs to bring charges.
  • by EsbenMoseHansen (731150) on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:17PM (#14413603) Homepage

    So hiring a "professional", then asking him to "take care of" a business rival is ok? :o)

  • by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:22PM (#14413634)
    From what I've heard it wasn't even the decision that caused the problems, but rather the law clerk's write-up of it.

    It hardly matters. What we need to do is institute corporate death penalties. If a corporation has committed a felony and cannot practically be imprisoned, then the only remaining option is to execute them. (I.e., revoke their charter and confiscate their assets. N.B.: This doesn't mean the assets of the individuals involved, merely the corporate assets. To attach the assets of individuals, you would need to prosecute them as individuals.)

  • by Copid (137416) on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:28PM (#14413661)
    What about fraud? Aren't there a lot of examples of fraud that are essentially just misleading speech designed to cheat people? Are you against those laws as well?
  • High school admins (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AndreyF (701606) on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:32PM (#14413692)
    From my experience, high school admins are usually the very bottom-of-the-barrel when it comes to computer ops. Mine was an english major turned high school english teacher turned highschool sysadmin. He suspended me for for three days just for running a network scan on the servers.
  • by Furmy (854336) on Friday January 06, 2006 @09:13PM (#14414066)
    To whom it may concern... [schoolwebpages.com]
  • by Irvu (248207) on Friday January 06, 2006 @09:36PM (#14414233)
    That has actually come up as one of the major arguments aginst such laws. As the page I referenced noted the practice of "Civil Death" goes back (at least) to the Romans. But it isn't practiced as much in the U.S. precisely because of that argument. Other arguments marshalled against it include the notion of Cruel and Unusual punishment (for a minor felony a life punishment is too much) and the notion of Double Joepardy. If the Jail Time is the punishment then what is the virtue of extending ti forever, etc.

    Ultimately it all comes down to the stigma of the crime.
  • by cbreaker (561297) on Friday January 06, 2006 @09:53PM (#14414334) Journal
    Call the FBI.
    From Internet Explorer:

    The page cannot be displayed
    The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.

    ------

    Please try the following:

    Click the Refresh button, or try again later.

  • by Magic5Ball (188725) on Friday January 06, 2006 @10:36PM (#14414527)
    Is it illegal for me to walk into a resturant that refuses to serve me with many of my friends and sit down until we are all served?

    Tresspass, if you've been told to leave and refuse to do so. Creating a public disturbance and assault are also possibilities depending on how you and your friends behave.
  • by AnalystX (633807) on Friday January 06, 2006 @11:08PM (#14414700) Journal
    <speculation>Only if it's an elevator in a police station, fire station, school, commercial building, or government building.</speculation> My grandfather had an elevator in his building that was used for commercial purposes downstairs and for personal living space upstairs. The building was actually zoned that way. So, I guess it would have been illegal only if someone pressed all the buttons going up.
  • Non violent action? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @12:07AM (#14414941)
    Ok, so If I invite 100,000 of my friends to sit in front of a restaurant, am I a felon? No, its called non violent protesting. Of course, the restaurant could argue that not being able to attend customers is a "damange", but if my friends don't start braking windows you can't jail me for instilling violent actions. Now there is another half of this story we aren't being told, and that is, why are students so willing to DDOS the school's site? This is the behavior of an unhappy alumnae. Now the funny thing is that physicaly invading the school's servers room is punished less harshly than doing so virtually. Welcome to the land of free shutting down public speech. The next step is getting the students to protest in front of the jail. Oops now I am a felon too...
  • creating a nuisance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Barbarian (9467) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @02:17AM (#14415399)
    In meat-space, there are laws that let people be charged with misdemeanors like "Creating a nuisance." You might get charged with this if you got 20 people to go into a department store and hold relay races in the isles. Isn't this guy's behavior more in line with this, than "computer crime?"
  • by RustyPelican (710692) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @04:43AM (#14415786)

    From a guy that is more middle of the road, I feel quite comfortable saying that I believe you are absolutely right. Anyone who has had any real experience with the legal system ( civil or criminal ) has a gut understanding that it is not always justice that is on the table. The name of the game is to get a settlement that is good enough to clear the courts calendar and put a few brownie points in the city's column and then NEXT!

    It doesn't appear that the city officials in question have any real experience or interest in raising children to be good citizens. They have fired off a canon to kill a fly. What ever happened to progressive disipline in schools ( detention, parent teacher meeting, suspension, expulsion, or maybe just a good verbal reprimand?) Why should it be necessary to call in the criminal justice system to handle what is at best a school discipline issue ( if it is any issue at all). I hope the city fathers of Canton step back and rethink their position on this one.

    The point here is that a city official took this action because he could do it and cause this kid a lot of pain and suffering regardless of the outcome, not because it was just. If there is any justice here, the mayor, city council, citizens of canton and the judge will extract equil pain and suffering from the public officials that took this uninlightened course of action. Maybe an email from every reader of Slashdot to Mayor Creighton will help start the process in the motion ( I'd post the email address but the web site seems to be slooooow at the moment ).

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