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Violating TOS now legally the same as hacking
myspace ruling could open a new can of worms

 6:17 pm on Dec 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

It will be interesting to see how the appeal goes. This could turn the internet into a legal mess.

Web site terms of service, which end users universally ignore, suddenly have teeth: violating them is a federal hacking offense, punishable with jail time. The days of being able to freely lie on the Web could be coming to an end. This could mean serious trouble for people who lie about their age, weight, or marital status in their online dating profiles.

The important fact is that there is no federal cyberbullying statute, so the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles turned to a novel interpretation of existing computer hacking laws to try to punish the woman. The general idea is that in creating terms of service, a Web site owner specifies the rules of admission to the site. If someone violates any of those contractual terms, the "access" to the Web site is done without authorization, and is thus hacking.




 6:11 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

From what I've read, you can only be procescuted for breaking a site's TOS if you do so with the intent to cause harm to someone else.

I haven't read the actual ruling line-by-line but it seems to be pretty limited in scope. Plus she was only convicted of misdemeanor charges. (Max 3 years?)

I seriously doubt that the sky is falling just yet.


 9:56 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

I could see maybe a trespassing charge but "hacking" should mean that you circumvented some type of security measure not that you entered a site on false pretenses.

Isn't TOS a form of security to keep people from wrongly using a site or product? So, you are in fact bypassing a security measure when you violate a TOS.


 10:06 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

physics, there is a law against being really mean to people. It is called harrassment.

They why couldn't they charge her with harassment instead of making up these 'hacking' charges?

Also, I'm not sure that harassment and being really mean are the same thing in a legal sense. Though in the case in question it seems like maybe harassment should apply since the actions were and the deception was so insidious and taken to such an extreme by an adult against a minor. In that case then the fact that it happened online shouldn't really make a difference.


 10:49 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

They why couldn't they charge her with harassment instead of making up these 'hacking' charges?

Because the jury found her not guilty on the harressment charges, because she did not intend to drive the child to child to suicide (or otherwise injure her), and she did not send all the messages involved. Read the Groklaw account of it.


 11:10 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

Because the jury found her not guilty on the harressment charges

Which is stupid because harassment is "wanting to cause harm, physical or mental, to an individual" which she absolutely wanted to cause.
The woman should have gone to jail for harassment and attempt to harm a minor, unfortunately she won't spend a day in jail.

Just my two cents

[edited by: Strapworks at 11:11 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2008]


 9:51 am on Dec 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

Where do you draw the line? Some sites update their TOS from time to time without any notice. Do users need to spend an hour reading a lengthy TOS every time they visit a site?


 11:44 am on Dec 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

without any notice

That needs to change


 11:49 am on Dec 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

Bear in mind that even if the police, prosecutors and judges all ignore common sense, juries still have the final word - the sky isn't falling just yet.

Of course, for people in the UK, this does raise the spectre of extradition to the US just for telling fibs in an online form since juries form no part of the extradition process (think Gary McKinnon).



 2:36 pm on Dec 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wow talk about a stretch,

I'm not surprised, have a friend who's son was doing the usual stuff early teen boys do, trying to blow stuff up. One of his group got arrested on an unrelated issue. They came to our friend's house, confiscated all flammables - including CANDLES, because paraffin is used in making bombs - and are considering prosecuting their son for terrorist activities.

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