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Crime United States

New CFAA Could Subject Teens To Jail For Reading Online News 230

redletterdave writes "Anyone under 18 found reading the news online could hypothetically face jail time according to the latest draft of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is said to be 'rushed' to Congress during its 'cyber week' in the middle of April. According to the new proposal floated by the House Judiciary Committee, the CFAA would be amended to treat any violation of a website's Terms of Service – or an employer's Terms of Use policy – as a criminal act. Applied to the world of online publications, this could be a dangerous notion: For example, many news websites' Terms of Use warn against any users under a certain age to use their site. In fact, NPR and the Hearst Corporation's entire family of publications, which includes Popular Mechanics, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle, all disallow readers under 18 from using their 'services.' According to the DOJ, this would mean anyone under 18 found accessing these sites — even just to read or comment on a story — could face criminal charges."
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New CFAA Could Subject Teens To Jail For Reading Online News

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  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:57PM (#43359729)

    The article is sensationalistic click bait.

    I don't see any such language in the document that was linked within the article. All I see are laws against trafficking in passwords, unauthorized access to a computer system to obtain financial information, non-public information from any government agency, or damage critical infrastructure computers.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:59PM (#43359747) Homepage Journal

    Everything that you do, every day is against the law. All the time.

    All it needs is a motivated prosecutor or enforcement agent, to activate your infraction.

  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:54PM (#43361469) Journal
    It goes much farther than that. It makes conspiracy to violate and attempts to violate punishable as though they had completed the crime.

    Simply talking about breaking the terms of service caries the same felony punishment.

  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @05:13PM (#43362697) Homepage Journal

    >Everything that you do, every day is against the law. All the time.

    >All it needs is a motivated prosecutor or enforcement agent, to activate your infraction.

    Not everything, but yeah. A US Attorney can make your life a living nightmare if they get a bug up their ass about you. It's happening to a friend of mine. He owns land, and leases it out to farmers. Farmers grew pot on it without his knowledge. Now US Attorney Wagner is trying to take his land, and, you know, why not? All his other assets too. And all his family's assets. Just because he wants to make an example out of them.

    If you want a book that will simultaneously enlighten and enrage you, I highly recommend Harvey Silverglate's "Three Felonies a Day". In it, he talks about how DAs and other prosecutors will laugh and joke about all the different ways they can throw completely innocent people into prison, and runs through hundreds of case studies showing how they abuse their power in conjunction with ambiguous laws to throw people into jail who had no idea they were committing a crime, and even the prosecutors didn't try to argue had a mens rea. []

    What needs to be done:
    1) Decriminalize a lot of things. Aaron's Law (which is the polar opposite of the law in TFA) would be a good step in this direction - make violations of EULAs civil, not criminal, cases. And do this for a whole set of things. (In the book, one artist was thrown in jail because his scientist friend bought some stuff for him - got sent to jail because arguably the wrong name was on the application).
    2) Require a mens rea ("guilty mind") to go to jail for most things. Right now, many statues operate on strict liability that really should require intent to commit a crime instead.
    3) Eliminate or clarify ambiguous laws. While it sounds nice to be able to make something nice and vague, in reality it means that US Attorneys can warp or twist the wording to bring a life-ending case against a person or business they don't like.
    4) Eliminate prosecutoral bribery. A defense attorney would get disbarred if he offered a witness a million bucks to tell a certain story in court, but prosecutors can and do do this all the time. They approach some underling in a business, arrest them, threaten them with a life in prison for having the gall to work for Enron as a middle manager... but then offer to let them off if they only tell a certain story in court against the Big Fish they're trying to land. It shouldn't be constitutional, but SCOTUS ruled it is, because it would otherwise destroy the "justice" system as it stands right now.

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