Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Terms of Service

You've probably read about the recent MySpace suicide case involving a woman named Lori Drew (pictured here looking horrible). The details are pretty grisly. Drew says she believed a teenage girl who lived down the street was spreading rumors about her daughter. So Drew and others set up a fake MySpace account and pretended to be a teenage boy romantically interested in the allegedly rumor-mongering girl. This girl had a history of mental illness, and when the fake MySpace boy insulted and cut off contact with her, she killed herself. Because there's no federal statute against online bullying, an enterprising U.S. attorney in Los Angeles decided to prosecute Drew under anti-hacking laws for violating MySpace's terms of service in creating a fake account. Some of MySpace's servers, it just so happens, are within the L.A. district. This was an unprecedented abuse of anti-hacking laws. There's no arguing against the fact that Lori Drew is a despicable human being who was responsible for a young girl's suicide, but she was no hacker. Millions of Internet users violate terms of service every minute. Try browsing through the TOS the next time you use Google (who hosts this very site, by the way), and you'll see that according to their rules, no one under eighteen is allowed to use their search engine or other services. This is obviously a protective measure, since Google doesn't want to be slapped with a lawsuit every time a curious twelve-year-old looks up "2 Girls 1 Cup". But under the precedent set by the conviction of Lori Drew, any minor who uses Google or Gmail is committing a criminal act subject to up to a year in jail or $100,000 in fines. This is absurd and a clear case of twisting the law to punish someone for being a complete douchebag. And it's another instance where defending freedom unfortunately means sometimes defending the rights of said douchebags. More details here.

Blog Archive