November 16, 2011
Obama’s Department of Justice will tell Congress today it should have the ability to prosecute people who lie on the internet. It wants to do this by making it illegal to breach the terms of service of websites.
The DOJ’s deputy computer crime chief, Richard Downing, will argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) — an amendment to the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act generally used to prosecute hacking and other serious cyber-crime — must give prosecutors the ability to charge people “based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider,” according to Andrew Couts, writing for Digital Trends.
Downing said law enforcement needs the revision in order to prosecute individuals for identity theft, privacy invasion or the misuse of government databases, and other violations of the law.
Orin S. Kerr, professor of George Washington University Law School, told Digital Trends that if implemented the law would criminalize people under the age of 18 who use the Google Search engine. Under its terms of service, minors are not allowed to use Google or its services.
“The same goes for someone who uses a fake name in their Facebook profile, or sheds a few pounds in their Match.com description — both of which are forbidden by those sites’ terms of service,” Couts notes.
If implemented, the government will not use the law to prosecute people who use fake names on Facebook, although it may use it selectively to prosecute “cyber-criminals.”
It is designed to attack alternative media. According to the government, the internet is a wasteland of lies, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.
In 2009, the government was so concerned about “conspiracy theories” it created a web page to debunk information challenging the official explanation of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
”The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be,” Obama’s administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote in a paper entitled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” Sunstein proposed infiltrating “extremist groups” – the alternative media – that deviate from the official narrative on 9/11 and other government-spun fairy tales.
Modifying the CFAA appears to be an attempt silence government critics and journalists who “lie” about 9/11 and other official narratives.
The government may not actually prosecute people for challenging official disinformation and propaganda, but it will may use the law to intimidate journalists and editors.
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