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The Courts Twitter Crime

Advice To Twitter Worker Who Deactivated Trump's Account: 'Get A Lawyer' (thehill.com) 271

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: A prominent attorney for cybersecurity issues has this advice to the unnamed Twitter worker said to have pulled the plug on President Trump's Twitter account: "Don't say anything and get a lawyer." Tor Ekeland told The Hill that while the facts of the case are still unclear and the primary law used to prosecute hackers is murky and unevenly applied, there is a reasonable chance the Twitter worker violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act...widely considered to be, as Ekeland explained it, "a mess." Various courts around the country have come up with seemingly contradictory rulings on what unauthorized access actually means. Ekeland said the Ninth Circuit, covering the state of California, has itself issued rulings at odds with itself that would have an impact on the Trump Twitter account fiasco as a potential case. The Ninth Circuit ruled that employees do not violate the law if they exceed their workplace computer policies. It has also ruled that employees who have been told they do not have permission to access a system cannot legally access it. Depending on which ruling a court leans on the hardest, a current Twitter employee without permission to shutter accounts may have violated the law by nixing Trump's account.
Ekeland points out that just $5,000 worth of damage could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

Friday the New York Times also reported that the worker responsible wasn't even a Twitter employee, but a hired contractor, adding that "nearly every" major tech company uses contractors for non-technical positions, including Google, Apple, and Facebook.
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Advice To Twitter Worker Who Deactivated Trump's Account: 'Get A Lawyer'

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  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @05:42PM (#55490279) Homepage Journal

    The greatest legal minds advise that if you have access to a system you can do whatever the fuck you want with it [slashdot.org].

  • by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @05:53PM (#55490313)

    If they are authorized to disable accounts that violate their Terms of Use, it seems like it is part of their job. If it were anyone else it would be no problem but good forbid Donald Trump get smacked.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anyone else is not the president of the US. Also - there was no authorization to disable his account. So - the perp was violating company policy.

      Likely nothing much will happen. But if you're Twitter the company, you have to be thinking that having the Feds crawl up your rectum looking for anything to charge you with has got to be a problem.

      Because a $4 trillion federal bureaucracy can do a lot of damage to an individual or a company it doesn't like.

      • Anyone else is not the president of the US.

        Irrelevant. The POTUS may be able to alter traffic and pre-empt television broadcasts, but on Twitter, he's just another user who is subject to their terms of service and various attached rules and policies.

        Also - there was no authorization to disable his account. So - the perp was violating company policy.

        Okay, now that is relevant.

        • Yes, but if you are going to antagonize the government, then better make sure everything you do is squeaky clean, all papers are correct form, signed, all "i"s dotted and "t"s crossed. Because if you piss the government off enough, it will most likely find something to use against you.

        • You seriously think TheRealDonaldTrump is "just another user"? Sorry, the fact that someone is POTUS is actually pretty significant. You'll note that while I can go in and edit most articles on Wikipedia, I cannot go and alter the article for Donald Trump or Barrack Obama, and for good reason. It has special protection against the inevitable vandalism that would occur otherwise from random idiots and zealots.

          Why Twitter didn't think it necessary to put some special protections on high-profile accounts is

          • You seriously think TheRealDonaldTrump is "just another user"?

            As far as Twitter is concerned? Yes. [And BTW, it's @realDonaldTrump.]

            Sorry, the fact that someone is POTUS is actually pretty significant.

            Yes, but not as far as the Twitter terms of use, rules, and policies are concerned. Twitter is no more obliged to offer an account to the POTUS than you are obliged to let him use your bathroom.

            You'll note that while I can go in and edit most articles on Wikipedia, I cannot go and alter the article for Donald Trump or Barrack Obama, and for good reason. It has special protection against the inevitable vandalism that would occur otherwise from random idiots and zealots.

            All of that is up to Wikipedia. Whether Twitter offers special protection for (or from?) some users is entirely up to them. It's their dojo.

            • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

              As far as Twitter is concerned? Yes. [And BTW, it's @realDonaldTrump.]

              We'll Twitters very actions prove that they don't consider @realDonaldTrump just another user. The fact they shit all over themselves restoring the account in 30 minutes and then issuing press statements distancing themselves from the event prove that. I promise that if I had a twitter account and something happened to it, it wouldn't be head line news when it got disabled.

              There is another reason that twatter, and faceboo, would be acting like this and treating the president with such gloves. While t

              • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

                An yes, I know only the government can truly "censor" someone. I'm just using as a figure of speech.

      • Anyone else is not the president of the US. Also - there was no authorization to disable his account. So - the perp was violating company policy

        You got this totally wrong. This is not about whether he should have disabled this account or not. He shouldn't have, and would have been fired about it if he hadn't left already.

        This is about whether he is guilty of abusing his ex-employer's computers. And he clearly was authorized to delete accounts.

        A similar recent case was about a woman whose job it was to operate a computer that fills out lottery tickets, and take payment for those tickets from customers. She used the computer to fill out about 1

    • by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:40PM (#55490491)

      Their job is to disable accounts when told to do so. Not whenever they feel like it. Not when they don't like what someone is saying. Not because they feel like it.

      This is no different than an admin leaving or being fired and botching the system before they walk out.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2017 @07:31PM (#55490637)

        It could be that this person was a moderating who decides if a person violated the term of service based on the companies policies.
        Maybe this person decided to finally correctly apply this to this twitter account.

        If that is the case, the lawsuit is going to be interesting.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Probably only designated personnel whose specific job is to do that are authorized to do so, but customer service representatives may have technical ability but No authorization to use that capability.

    • If it were anyone else it would be no problem but good forbid Donald Trump get smacked.

      All this worrying over nothing. I’m sure President Trump will take the high road and turn the other cheek.

  • Fucked (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @05:56PM (#55490325)

    As soon as you have to pay a lawyer, you are FUBAR.

    Remember how money gets distributed by courts. Lawyers first.

    • As soon as you have to pay a lawyer, you are FUBAR.

      He doesn't need a lawyer . . . Trump would not even bother to touch this guy or gal.

      When push comes to shove, it won't matter about your political motivations concerning your actions at work.

      Skank Donald Trump? Well, he seems to have his team to handle this.

      Skank Hillary Clinton? Well, she will declare that she is responsible, but will clearly put the blame on someone else.

      The person who did this will need to apply for a change of name. It doesn't matter if you are a democrat or a republican. Someon

      • I also do not think that Trump would bother with the ex-employee, because if he wanted to sue somebody, he would sue Twitter and then let Twitter figure out what to do with the ex-employee. Though I do not think that he will sue Twitter for this either.

        However, Twitter may try to preempt a lawsuit by Trump with a lawsuit against the ex-employee in an effort to show that "yes, we did not authorize this, he/she did this on their own etc".

  • A mess? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2017 @05:57PM (#55490327)

    It's a fucking travesty!

    Had this been any other president or political candidate, airlines would be diverting traffic to extradite this guy already.

    But hey, if 'cause Trump' finally gets the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act the scrutiny it sorely needs, then I'm all for it.

    • It's a fucking travesty!

      Had this been any other president or political candidate, airlines would be diverting traffic to extradite this guy already.

      But hey, if 'cause Trump' finally gets the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act the scrutiny it sorely needs, then I'm all for it.

      Why? Because a Twitter account got deactivated for a couple hours? Turn off Fox News and rejoin the real world.

      Some contractor decided to pull a dumb stunt, the meaningful consequences of which were precisely zilch.

      The guy should be sued and/or face some additional legal consequences, it should certainly impact his future employment prospects because he's proven he'll abuse his access.

      But otherwise, it's just not that big a deal.

    • Trump has been violating Twitter's policies almost as long as he has had a Twitter account, but double-especially since he became POTUS. The thing that will hang this contractor is that they were no longer a contractor when they deleted Trump's account.

  • by iMadeGhostzilla ( 1851560 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:00PM (#55490333)

    I'd prefer if they let the guy just walk away. He made a fool of himself and achieved nothing, which is punishment enough. And he risked his own skin career-wise for what he believed in (or couldn't control himself about), which is something to respect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

      Impulsive pointless vandalism is something to respect?

      No. He fucked himself sideways.

      What's his name? He should be _radioactive_ in the job market. Risked? It's gone, over. He's going to be selling speakers out of a van. Staying out of jail? Most likely, but not until a google search of his name is forever toxic.

      • He knew that was going to happen (he'd be just too dumb not to, which is a possibility, but less likely I hope), hence respect.

        No harm is done, in fact it may have put Twitter under closer scrutiny so they'll make doubly sure a deleted account can be recovered. At most I think he'd need to get mandatory therapy so he learns to control his emotions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:02PM (#55490341)

    What about the employee who turned it back on? How much damage is that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:14PM (#55490385)

    While these comments are fairly amusing, Trump and Twitter entered into a contractual agreement. This employee violated that agreement. Unless you are an expert in contract law, you can't begin to estimate the potential damage done or even which states rules apply. In fact, just pick a favorable State and sue. While Twitter claims they can terminate services for no reason, Twitter wasn't involved here. Civil suit damages can reach crazy numbers fast, so even if you don't see jail time aka CFAA, you may never make another dime.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I guess you haven't read Twitter's "Hateful Conduct Policy". Trump's account should have been disabled long ago.

  • by Donald William Gillies ( 5143573 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:26PM (#55490425)
    I think the worker could pretty easily say that he terminated the account for hate speech, and he would WIN in court. Then the tables would be turned, and Twitter would be forced to justify why it has allowed a hate-speech account to violate its terms of service for such a long, long time ...
    • by bongey ( 974911 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @09:01PM (#55490935)
      There is NO SUCH THING as HATE SPEECH, there is only SPEECH.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Progressives really like "hate speech" laws. It makes it easier to censor people, you know, just like what is happening in Europe.

  • by thrillseeker ( 518224 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @06:28PM (#55490435)
    Assumptions based on what I've read: The contractor's actions appear to have been intentional, applied after termination, done without company directive, and did harm to the business. I think this ticks a lot of the boxes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. While the action was "easily" (I assume) undone without loss of data, the negative reactions to the company must have a bottom line calculation. Hell, if Twitter doesn't sue the contractor then it can be viewed as condoning the act, and Twitter's public shareholders likely have a class-action suit ready-made for lack of effort regarding their fiduciary responsibility, since being publicly traded comes with a responsibility to act in the best interests of their shareholders, and a multi-billion dollar company is a juicy target.
    • the negative reactions to the company must have a bottom line calculation.

      I don't care who this happened to; Trump, Omaha, some unknown janitor - it's hugely damaging to find out someone in such a low level position can so easily mess with an account without authorization from the holder.

      We all know that support personnel have to be able to manage accounts to do their jobs, but remember they also always ask you questions as well related to the account that one presumes are also to give the system enough con

    • applied after termination

      That right there will (or should) hang him.

    • The stickler on this is whether he was following company policy. Remember, they haven't cut off his access yet. It's likely therefore that he has not been given instructions to stop doing his job. Given that he's empowered to terminate accounts we can assume that doing so is within his job description. We also know that Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed the limits of Twitter's terms of service. Unless this person has been instructed otherwise, terminating the account could be entirely legal.

      The real loser

    • Since when does Twitter have shareholders?

    • Assumptions based on what I've read: The contractor's actions appear to have been intentional, applied after termination, done without company directive, and did harm to the business. I think this ticks a lot of the boxes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

      There is one essential thing missing: He wasn't hacking into the computer. That's what makes the "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act" apply, and that's not there. For example, a bank employee who is authorised to give people loans and transfer money into their bank accounts, and transfers money into his own account, is surely guilty of theft - but the "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act" doesn't apply. As far as hacking laws are concerned, he wasn't hacking.

  • by spudnic ( 32107 )

    I find it amusing that "A prominent attorney for cybersecurity issues," is named Tor. Great name for it!

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      Define "Prominent" - I've never heard of him, and I dare say most here have not - within what realm is he "prominent"?

  • Tech companies hire contractors,
    "Hacking Laws" are a mess, and
    A lawyer offered up the unsolicited advice that the contractor that may have violate a "messy" law should secure the services of a lawyer.

    Wow, that Is "News for Nerds" - who knew any of the above?

  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @08:02PM (#55490737)

    Seeing as how the experts canâ(TM)t figure out if it is a crime and the victim is the idiot a very large village had to try very hard to send away the most appropriate punishment is to throw he book at him.

    By which I mean the biggest book Donald Trump can personally read and explain correctly. So basically pelt this guy with some Seuss and letâ(TM)s be done with it.

    • Trump is the stupidest man in the world to buy his own 757.
      • Trump is the stupidest man in the world to buy his own 757.

        Trump has been outperformed financially by Paris Hilton. If he had just invested his money into various mutual funds, he would have more money today. He's a shit investor, but a pretty good criminal. However, that's not because he's smart. It's because of inertia. Without his father's money, you would never have heard of him at all.

        • K, tell you what, take a few million and turn it into billions by real estate sales. No putting it in a safe space like index funds, no take the money yourself and swim among the sharks. You must outsmart people to whom money means nothing, they're purely into it for the thrill of fucking you over in deals. What do you think your odds are? Ready, go!
          • K, tell you what, take a few million and turn it into billions by real estate sales.

            He did it with fraud.

      • Wat's wrong with the 757? Those RB-211s allow the aircraft to make mincemeat out of short runways. :D
  • Friday the New York Times also reported that the worker responsible wasn't even a Twitter employee, but a hired contractor, adding that "nearly every" major tech company uses contractors for non-technical positions, including Google, Apple, and Facebook.

    Thank you Captain Obvious! YES, major tech companies hire contractors for non-technical positions, and you know what, they've even been known to hire consultants for technical positions too! (Ever heard the term H1-B visa?)

  • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Saturday November 04, 2017 @08:50PM (#55490901)
    make an effort to make a splashy exit the last day at work.

    If the Fastest Delete Key In The West here had been working for Microsoft or Amazon and deleted a bunch of high profile clients' cloud accounts on his last day, he'd want a lawyer just the same. The fact that he only did it to one user and didn't cost anyone any real productivity is probably the one good thing he's got going for him.
  • If the employee did this after employment ended, we would have a problem. But you see, this employee was granted access to Twitter's systems freely by his/her supervisors. While the act was pretty childish and silly, it fails to meet the requirements of being a criminal act. Let it go, move on, geeze. No quantifiable damage was caused.

  • The American lawyer frenzy and harsh punishment driven mentality feel really strange to an outsider.

    So deactivating Trumps account was probably a stupid thing to do, but c'mon 10 years in prison? Is that really productive?

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