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Friday, 05 April 2013 10:39

US will jail kids who read the news

Written by Nick Farrell



We don’t want them informed

In a desperate attempt to keep its kids as uninformed as the youth of North Korea, the US is threatening to jail them if they visit news sites. Under the latest draft of proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act anyone who breaks the terms and conditions of a website can be jailed. Since a lot of websites contain terms and conditions which say that minors should not visit their sites, any child caught going to such sites will be banged up.

The new proposal floated by the House Judiciary Committee, the CFAA, which was originally passed in 1984 as a measure to thwart hacking. It will be amended to treat any violation of a website’s Terms of Service, or an employer’s Terms of Use policy, as a criminal act. Under the proposed changes, users could be punished and possibly even prosecuted for accessing a website in a way it wasn’t meant to be used. But if it were applied to the world of online publications it will be extremely dodgy. Many news websites’ Terms of Use warn against any users under a certain age using their site.

Hearst Corporation’s entire family of publications, which includes Popular Mechanics, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle, all say they should not be visited by someone under the age of 18. The Miami Herald and San Diego disallow users under 18 and even NPR doesn’t allow teenagers to access its “services” without legal consent, and even after that, don’t allow them to “submit any User Materials.”

Several news sites like the New York Times, Boston Globe and NBCNews have loosened their policy restrictions, only forbidding users under the age of 13. But this is even weirder because it says that a 12-year-olds reading a newspaper can be arrested.

Though the Justice Department could argue that the vast majority of cases against minors may never be prosecuted, it has a history of pulling people out as examples. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is tackling the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with its own alternative proposals, which include eliminating duplicative penalties and reducing some computer crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

Nick Farrell

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