A federal judge in Missouri dismissed the MySpace suicide-hoax case. Here’s a very good article from the LA Times on the case.
Aside from the question of whether it’s a good idea to pose as someone you aren’t in order to upset a teenage girl, this case presents an extraordinarily muscular theory of criminal liability from the United States Department of Justice.
A little background – federal law prohibits unauthorized access to a computer or computer server. The idea is that if I’m having a dinner party, and you’re a guest, and you sneak up to my computer and access it without my permission to look at my bank records or iTunes playlist, that conduct should be criminalized. Similarly, if you hack into my online banking accounts, independent of whether you commit another crime (like wire fraud) that conduct should be illegal. So federal law makes it a crime to use a computer without authorization.
Very happily, a federal judge has put a stop to this nonsense. Let’s hope the appellate court agrees.
If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.