Monday, December 1, 2008

Law Problems: lack of understanding

Today I was reading an excellent article in Groklaw where I learned about the case of a teenager that killed herself (apparently because of peer pressure over the Internet)

What raised my attention was that they are convicting someone accused of actions against the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. This law was written in the United States with the purpose of punishing those that gain illegal access to internet sites or do abusive things with their computers, clearly meaning hackers, crackers, spammers, virus distributors, etc. Not peer presure.

This is a worrisome issue, because the person charged didn't do any of those things. She simply lied while creating her MySpace profile. This is against MySpace's TOS (Terms of agreement ). What they are trying to do is raise this break of agreement (written and interpreted by MySpace) to the status of federal felony.

I'm going to try to make you understand what this means. Suppose that I said somewhere in this blog that I don't want any kind of Spam in it. Now someone spams in one article's commentaries. According to this interpretation of the law, I'd have the right to criminally acusse him just because of an arbitrary policy created and interpreted by myself. Quite disproportionate, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm not from the United States, and this article isn't only for United States people. It also isn't a detailed description of the case, for that check people that know about law, like Groklaw. This article is here simply to make yourselves aware.

If we let each of our contrie's legislators make the laws they want, if we let advocates and judges use them badly, it will be us, the ones that have computer knowledge, the ones left with a great share of guilt. That would be because we didn't show our disagreement, we didn't document the problem with technical knowledge non technical people can understand. We just kept on sitting in our comfy chairs while people without the knowledge or understanding of the real issue did what it was within their reach.

Think about it. We are living in a time where legislations are being made about what we do in Internet and what we generate with our computers. Can we afford the luxury of let them do whaterver they want, or simply whatever they can do with their limited knowledge?

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