The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday sued the government over a law it says hampers research into online discrimination.
The organization is representing Intercept publisher First Look Media’s nonprofit arm and researchers who are challenging the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). They say the law wrongly criminalizes methods to research and report on the issue.
The law originated in the 1980s in an attempt to thwart increasing cyber crime. The law makes it illegal not to follow a website’s terms of service. That can make it unlawful to sign up for more than one account, for example, or collect data on the sites using software.
But those methods are also employed by researchers studying whether algorithms online disproportionately harm certain groups, including along racial and gender lines, according to the ACLU. The complaint alleges the law violates the First Amendment.