The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brett Abrams 516-841-1105 :

Aaron Swartz's Partner and Demand Progress Encourage Internet to Defeat Harsh New CFAA Proposal

Continue Support for Aaron’s Law to Protect Internet Users from Aggressive Prosecution


Digital activists nationwide are lining up in opposition to the new draft proposal of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) being discussed by the House Judiciary Committee. In just a few hours, more than 20,000 people have taken to Demand Progress' website below to pledge their opposition to the CFAA and urge their local representatives to oppose the bill.


"The new CFAA draft that's being floated by certain Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee is disgraceful and an affront to Aaron's memory and the countless concerned Internet users who've cried out since his passing," said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron Swartz's partner. "While we push to reform the CFAA to reduce the potential it has to harm activists and innovators like Aaron, this proposal would stiffen certain CFAA penalties, and make it even easier for many people to be charged under the CFAA. Even under the current CFAA, it's possible for law enforcement to charge people for violating a website's terms of service agreement (TOS) or 'exceeding authorized access' to a computer network. It's entirely reasonable to think that some of the most prominent mainstream tech figures our our era -- Steve Jobs (phone phreaking), Mark Zuckerberg (misusing Harvard's network) -- exposed themselves to potential criminal prosecution under the CFAA."


Conservative law professor and former prosecutor Orin Kerr has noted of the proposal: "This language is really, really broad. If I read it correctly, the language would make it a felony to lie about your age on an online dating profile if you intended to contact someone online and ask them personal questions. It would make it a felony crime for anyone to violate the TOS on a government website. It would also make it a federal felony crime to violate TOS in the course of committing a very minor state misdemeanor. If there is a genuine argument for federal felony liability in these circumstances, I hope readers will enlighten me: I cannot understand what they are."

"This is a slap on the face to everybody who's demanded reform of our laws and of law enforcement in light of Aaron's prosecution and passing," said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress. "It's up to all of us to make it clear that Department of Justice (DOJ) is overplaying it's hand and ensure that this proposal is defeated." Demand Progress was co-founded by the recently deceased Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide while under indictment for allegedly violating the CFAA by downloading too many academic journal articles.


Demand Progress amplifies the voice of the people -- and wields it to make government accountable and contest concentrated corporate power. Our mission is to protect the democratic character of the internet -- and wield it to contest concentrated corporate power and hold government accountable.