Friday, September 16, 2011

Follow-Up: Congress prevents move to make Internet lies a federal crime

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Criminalization of Internet lies: Computer screen reading “Trust me. I’m from the INTERNET” behind yellow police “CRIME SCENE” ribbon
Not anymore

Yesterday, I blogged about the news that Congress was considering changes to the (already broadly interpreted) Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that would’ve made it a federal crime to display any dishonesty on the Internet, such as lying about one’s age or using a fake profile picture. Thankfully, it seems that whatever forces for sanity that still inhabit the federal legislature have awakened in protest and an amendment has been presented to prevent this newest travesty against free speech:

Senators Al Franken and Chuck Grassley proposed new language for the bill (thanks in part to Kerr's urging) to exempt those guilty only of TOS violations. Franken, in urging his fellow senators to adopt the amendment, said that without it, the following people would be felons: “A father who uses his son’s Facebook password to log into his Facebook account to check his messages and photos” (ed. note: Creepy and invasive but not criminal); “a 17 year-old who claims she is 18 in order to sell her knitted scarves on Etsy,” and “a struggling businessowner who secretly creates a Yelp account to give his restaurants favorable reviews” (ed. note: Again, uncool and deceptive, but not felony behavior).

The Committee then added an amendment [pdf] to the bill that specifies that felony-level unauthorized access not “include access in violation of a contractual obligation or agreement, such as an acceptable use policy or terms of service agreement, with an Internet service provider, Internet website, or non-government employer, if such violation constitutes the sole basis for determining that access to a protected computer is unauthorized.” The bill will now move forward to be considered by the Senate.

I guess that’s one less government-sanctioned violation of the First Amendment to worry about. (For now, anyway.)

(via @RightOnCrime)