"Should Faking a Name on Facebook Be a Felony?"


Writing in The Wall Street Journal, George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr details a very disturbing move by the Obama administration:

Imagine that President Obama could order the arrest of anyone who broke a promise on the Internet. So you could be jailed for lying about your age or weight on an Internet dating site. Or you could be sent to federal prison if your boss told you to work but you used the company's computer to check sports scores online. Imagine that Eric Holder's Justice Department urged Congress to raise penalties for violations, making them felonies allowing three years in jail for each broken promise. Fanciful, right?

Think again. Congress is now poised to grant the Obama administration's wishes in the name of "cybersecurity."

The little-known law at issue is called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It was enacted in 1986 to punish computer hacking. But Congress has broadened the law every few years, and today it extends far beyond hacking. The law now criminalizes computer use that "exceeds authorized access" to any computer. Today that violation is a misdemeanor, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to meet this morning to vote on making it a felony.

Read the whole story here.

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  1. Or you could be sent to federal prison if your boss told you to work but you used the company’s computer to check sports scores online.

    Imagine Morning Links with nary but a tumbleweed blowing through the comments section.

    1. Nothing but the sound of crickets chirping…

      1. You mean kind of like how the comments section is tonight?

  2. So tell me again Tony about the benevolence of government.

    1. You wouldn’t understand. Much like the ungrateful peasants didn’t understand all the Lenin was doing for them.

  3. We could probably, under this law, have Obama arrested for pretending to be a nigger.

    1. That’s racist, yo.
      Also, what?

      1. He probably meant niggard. Contrary to how he might portray himself, Obama actually really likes generous federal spending policies.

        1. We should probably be more niggardly with the niggard references.

      2. Don’t be alarmed, Jaime likes to freak the rubes by dropping n-bombs.

        He’s a a journalist so there’s no way he’s a racist.

        1. Jamie too.

          1. I don’t know. That dude calls God ‘fred’, our Jamie would just call Him a n*gger.

            1. But, he’s got “Reason?” right on the site!

              1. I saw that, but Mr. Kelly doesn’t seem to be the kind of self-serious asshole that usually describes himself as an objectionist.

  4. Way to feed conspiracy theories about Facebook being a giant CIA operation.

  5. I blame TV’s “The West Wing.” The show whose thesis was that the American president witnessed every falling sparrow.

  6. I’m faking my name right now. Come and get me.

  7. Really, at this point what’s one more felony. Odds are if they want to get you, they’ll get you for something. What we need is a Reason sponsored contest for most felonies per day.

    1. I’m not sure you’ve been authorized to use your computer to make that statement. Put your hands over you head and wait for the FBI to arrive.

  8. been covering this at as well (kerr is a contributor).

    classic example of overbroad, all encompassing federal law.

    they tried to use this law against that woman who ‘drove’ that teen girl to suicide after faking a whole relationship online with her, etc.

    it’s totally messed up, and perfect example of federal overbroad crap

  9. So if there comes a day where I’m not all that mad, say the day a guy like Ron Paul gets elected president, can I too be arrested for faking my name?

  10. I don’t see any problem with this. Kerr is an alarmist.

    Can this Goat get more fans than Barack Obama?

    1. I was prepared to “like” the goat. But then the first post was some bullshit against illegal immigration. I don’t like either.

      1. I had the some response, then I saw that the goat “liked” Alex Jones which made me want to run away even faster.

  11. Interstate commerce. Duh.

  12. I can’t recall anything making the Constitution optional for presidents, even magical ones.

    1. See: Tulpa, above; @ 9:20PM.

      1. There is no Tulpa post at 9:20. Are you positing a nihilist reading of the Constitution.

        1. Gay nightclubs in Pittsburgh are in a different time zone, 6 minutes ahead. For obvious reasons.

          1. @Tulpa

            Does that mean that I’m in a gay bar, or that you are? Because I’m at home and if there are a bunch of gays whooping it up in my basement they’d better clean up, ’cause I don’t have time to.

            1. Uh, I’m confused.

        2. I’ve been awake since school started, roughly three weeks now, so please excuse my nonsense. No coherence ’til christmas!

          1. Sleep problems? Come over to my place, I’ve got a bunch of Labatt’s and some Farscape DVDs I haven’t watched.

            1. Oh no, I sleep just fine, especially in my mandatory humanities classes. I just have a whole lot on my plate this semester.

              I am learning to write python on a red hat machine, though. My first language.

              1. Python is great.

                Still trying to get my personal H&R filter/chronicizer in Python working seamlessly in Firefox though. Right now it only works from the command line.

                1. statist. Only cratophiles use python. Since perl died, everyone knows the language of liberty is ruby.

            2. I think we just figured out who the gay is.

              1. I thought Dominar Rygel was female.

                1. I thought Dominar Rygel was female.

                  Then you missed a very disturbing episode chock-full of puppet sex.

      2. Unfortunately that’s so true. The interstate commerce clause has been used as a loophole to criminalize nearly anything they wish to. Use a pencil from out of state to make something obscene? Doesn’t matter if it’s legal in your state, you’re going to federal prison.

        I’m sure they’d be able to find some way that’ll pass some legal technicalities to expand the Computer Fraud & Abuse act yet again. Fuckin Congress. Fuckin Obama.

  13. This is all happening way faster than I thought it would in the days of Bush. I figured it’d be closer to 2025~2030 before it got this fucked up.

    1. WTF (where the fuck) is the ACLU?

      1. Are you an ACLU contributor $$$ (I am)?

        If not, start now.


  14. More seriously, didn’t the federal court handling that suicide case rule that violating the TOS of a publicly-available website did not in itself constitute “unauthorized access”?

    1. iirc, yes. the abomination was that they charged her and tried her (lori drew case).

      iirc, kerr did an amicus brief or helped out some way in that case. it was a long time ago, but something like that.

  15. I think you picked the wrong pullquote from the article. I prefer:

    Remarkably, the law doesn’t even require devices to be connected to the Internet. Since 2008, it applies to pretty much everything with a microchip. So if you’re visiting a friend and you use his coffeemaker without permission, watch out: You may have committed a federal crime.

    1. So if you’re visiting a friend and you use his coffeemaker without permission


      You may have committed a federal crime.


    2. In the past 5 years, I’ve done a ton of work connecting stuff to the internet. Just about everything in a restaurant is either already capable of sending data across the internet or soon will be.

      Coffee makers are actually one of the first things we started fooling with. A lot of companies will give a restaurant a free high end coffee maker with the understanding that they will buy their coffee from the company. So they wanted a way to monitor how many times the coffee machine brewed a pot so they could compare it to the amount of coffee they purchased.

  16. The law now criminalizes computer use that “exceeds authorized access” to any computer. Today that violation is a misdemeanor, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to meet this morning to vote on making it a felony.

    I trust that the computer-literate portion (if one exists) of the Senate Judiciary Committee will soon be in prison. Also, what’s magic about computers? Make it a felony to “exceed authorized access” to anything: copy machines, pens, restrooms closed for cleaning, ….

    1. Not sure about your office, but our scanners, faxes, copiers, and printers would all qualify under this change.

      Well, at least I can threaten the dick in the cube next to me who checks bank websites and prints coupons all day.

  17. Dere is not to be no volunteers faking no names on da Facebook. We will be looking into da Cub or Boy Scout what done dis here faking of names.

  18. The shocking thing is this wasn’t done while Bush was in office. Of course these days I expect this kind of thing from both sides.

  19. The original article mischaracterizes the breadth of acts that can be considered a crime under the Act.


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