Lie on the internet, go to jail

Legal experts wary of MySpace hacking charges | The Register

“This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications,” US Attorney Thomas P. O’ Brien said in a statement announcing the indictment. “After a thorough investigation, we have charged Ms. Drew with criminally accessing MySpace and violating rules established to protect young, vulnerable people. Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering website to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences.”

Yet, legal experts argue that charging a person for violating computer-crime statutes because they broke the terms-of-service agreement of an online site could lead to the ability to charge nearly anyone with computer crime. Using residential broadband for business purposes? A violation of the terms of service and, thus, potentially a crime. Checking sports sites while at work? A violation of corporate policy and, thus, potentially a crime.

In theory, only when you plan to violate someone’s terms of service as part of committing a tort, but I’d hate to hang my hat on that distinction. (I wonder what would have happened if someone had conducted a similar campaign driving a person to suicide using phone calls, letters, telegrams or fliers. No, seriously, I do wonder.)

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