Lying Online a Federal Crime? US DOJ Seeks to Enforce Computer Fraud Act

The days of lying on social networking websites may soon be over.

According to CNet, the United States Department of Justice is defending computer hacking laws that make it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or even lie about weight in an online dating profile at a website like Match or eHarmony.

In a statement obtained by CNet that's scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, the Justice Department argued that it must be able to prosecute violations of websites' often-ignored, always-unintelligible "’terms of service’ policies,” said CNet’s Declan McCullagh.

The law must allow "prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider." Richard Downing, the Justice Department's deputy computer crime chief, will detail the issue to U.S. Congress tomorrow.

If the Department of Justice is successful at enforcing the law, it could also make it a punishable crime for millions of teenagers to use Google servers or upload a copyrighted video on YouTube, because of the terms and conditions set forth by the website.

The actual law defended will be the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was a law passed by the United States Congress in 1986, and was intended to reduce cracking of computer systems and to address federal computer-related offenses.

“The Justice Department claims to have an interest in enforcing Terms of Use and computer use policies under the CFAA, but its examples mostly consist of cases in which the conduct described has already been criminalized by statutes other than the CFAA,” said Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department computer crime prosecutor, to CNet.

“Further, my proposed statutory fix (see the second proposal in my testimony) would preserve the government's ability to prosecute the remaining cases DOJ mentions while not raising the civil liberties problems of the current statute,” Kerr added.

Even with social network users worried about their own privacy issues on websites like Facebook, Google + and YouTube, some people are not too happy about the latest news.

“So lying about one's weight on a website would now be a crime? Government is getting more ridiculous by the minute,” tweeted Bridgetantle on Twitter.

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