The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Do you know what foreign countries want to control? Do you know what military regimes use to spy, to oppress, and to attack both public and private institutions with? Do you know what law enforcement and intelligence agencies want to mine and monitor? It is called the World Wide Web. I am sure everyone here has at least used it at least once. It is a powerful tool. As Ben Parker in Spider-Man says, “with great power comes great responsibilities.” The internet and citizens around the world are in grave danger due to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It has already taken at least one life. His name is Aaron Swartz. Since his life was taken there was a bill created called Aaron’s Law. The internet and I need you help getting congress to discuss this law.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, also known as the CFAA, was created by the Reagan administration and enacted by congress in 1986 as an amendment to the existing computer fraud law. (18 United State Code Section 1030) known as the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act. In 1996 the CFAA was, again, broadened by an amendment that replaced the term “federal interest computer” with the term “protected computer.” It is now 2017 and we need congress to reexamine the act and make improvements to match todays society’s usage of the internet.
The CFAA states, “whoever intentionally access a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication shall be punished under the Act.” Along with that there are 7 different types of criminal activity mentioned in the CFAA. They are obtaining national security information, compromising confidentiality, trespassing in a government computer, accessing to defraud and obtain value, damaging a computer or information, trafficking in passwords, and threatening to damage a computer.
The CFAA was intentionally made broad and used words with many meanings. One example of how broad it is, is that the CFAA does not define what authorization means. When the Reagan Administration created the CFAA it also did not define obtaining information. Obtaining information can range from downloading top secret government emails from the Secretary of State personal server to loading Google. It is against the CFAA to partake in Interstate or foreign communication, yet that is exactly what you are doing if you visit Facebooks website from outside of California.
There is a court case that is famous to activists and online trolls. It is the case of United States v. Lori Drew. Lori was charged and convicted of a misdemeanor in violations of the CFAA over the cyberbullying of a 13-year-old, Megan Meier, who committed suicide. Lori made a fake MySpace profile, and used it to torment one of her teenage daughter’s enemies till Megan decided to kill herself. Creating a fake profile on Myspace goes against the Terms of Service. A judge eventually removed Drew’s conviction, arguing that it was inappropriate to interpret the CFAA.
Members of Anonymous set up a petition on the White House official website Jan. 7 2013 that asked the government to recognize distributive denial of service attack also known as DDoS as a valid form of protest. DDoS is the practice by which a website’s servers are flooded with requests until they become overloaded, taking the website offline. The petition compares it to “repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage.” TechDirt described DDoS as a “modern equivalent to the sit-in,” a civil disobedience tactic popularized by student activists in the 1960s. Clog the hallway of a government office with enough people, and it effectively ceases to function; direct enough traffic to a website, and the same thing happens. According to The White House website, on January 13, 2015, President Obama Announces New Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal to make harsher punishments for hackers and hacktivists.
According to The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Aarons Law removes the vague phrase “exceeds authorized access” and clarifies the definition of “access without authorization.” Fixing these definitions, the bill incorporates judgments from the Fourth and Ninth circuits, which held that access in violation of private contracts, like employer agreements and terms of service, are not criminal offenses under the CFAA. With the current writing of the CFAA, you can be charged with multiple charges for one underlying criminal action. These are just a few of the many changes that Aarons Law would change. Aarons Law has been waiting to be brought up in congress for 4 years now and if you think that congress needs to at least look over the CFAA and/or Aarons Law now is the time to tell your representatives and ask congress for an informed public debate to ensure lawmakers make the right choices that fully preserve the vital openness of the Internet and the privacy and civil liberties of its users. There is very easy and simple way to message your local congressmen and woman by clicking here

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