Today, EFF and a host of organizations across the political spectrum are launching a week-of-action imploring Congress to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)—the expansive law used to prosecute the late activist and Internet pioneer Aaron Swartz.
The CFAA has been expanded and morphed since it originally passed in 1984 so that it now threatens draconian and out-of-proportion punishments for acts that cause little or no economic harm. It has also been used to threaten innovators and security researchers. Worse, since the Justice Department's expansive interpretation would criminalize website terms of service violations, the CFAA threatens to turn virtually everyone online into a criminal.
We're asking Congress for three specific, common-sense fixes to the CFAA, which will bring the outdated law into the 21st Century:
- No more criminal penalties for violating a website's fine print or an employee manual
- No criminal penalties for circumvention techniques that protect privacy and promote security
- Make penalties proportionate to offenses and stop punishing virtual crimes more harshly than physical world crimes
Unfortunately some members of the House Judiciary committee have floated a change to the CFAA that goes in the opposite direction, expanding penalties under the CFAA and largely codifying the DOJ’s position on terms of service violations.
Here's how you can help:
1. Use our Twitter tool to send tweets to House Judiciary members explaining to them that violating website terms of service and employee duties should not be a crime.
2. Email your representative to support a version of Aaron's Law that would makes the fixes listed above.
3. Call your representative to reiterate your support for CFAA reform. Remember, during the SOPA/PIPA fight, nothing was more important than jamming up the Congressional phonelines.
4. Change your twitter and Facebook icons both in remembarance of Aaron and to spread word about CFAA reform.
You can also take action on a special page made by Demand Progress, the advocacy organization Aaron founded to help fight SOPA and other threats to Internet freedom.
EFF and a host of other organizations and experts are participating in two Reddit AMAs over the next couple days (one on CISPA, one on CFAA), so make sure to share them on social media. And please share as much information on the draconian penalities in the CFAA as you can. Many people outside of the tech community may not have heard of the law and how unjust it is.
We'll continue to update you throughout the week on our progress in reforming the CFAA once and for all.
For more history on the CFAA, and for EFF's specific legislative fixes to the law, please visit our CFAA reform page.