For Immediate Release

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Brett Abrams : 516-841-1105

Demand Progress, Internet Defense League Launch Week Of Action To Reform Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

CFAA Criminalizes Basic Internet Use and is Used in Abusive Prosecutions

WASHINGTON - Demand Progress and the Internet Defense League (IDL) today launched a week of action to encourage reform of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.   The IDL is a formalized coalition of organizations and websites that came together to defeat SOPA last year.  

Participating organizations and sites will ask their users to contact Congress to express their support for reform of the CFAA and opposition to a recent proposal to expand and harshen that law.

Groups such as Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and others were set to take part.  So were sites like Reddit, BoingBoing, and countless others.

Internet users and activists are encouraged to email Congress and to link their site's back to Demand Progress's Fix the CFAA website.



The expansive CFAA was first passed in the mid-1980s, before most households had computers, let alone Internet access.  Yet law enforcement has interpreted it to criminalize even mundane Internet use, such as petty violations of websites' fine-print terms of service agreements.  Under this interpretation commonplace Internet use would technically be criminalized, including:

  • Sharing passwords for Facebook or other social media sites with friends;
  • Starting a social media profile under a pseudonym;
  • Exaggerating one's height on a dating site;
  • Visiting a site if one is under the stipulated age requirement (under 18 for many sites)
  • Blocking cookies in a way that enables one to circumvent a news site's paywall.  (For instance, the New York Times website cannot block those who delete cookies from reading more than the allotted number of free articles each month.)

Additionally, it is via the CFAA that law enforcement has undertaken a recent spate of prosecutions of questionable merit -- including that of Demand Progress cofounder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide earlier this year while being prosecuted for downloading too many academic article from JSTOR.


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The week of action has two main asks:

1) Call for the defeat of a proposal to expand and harshen the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, under which Swartz was prosecuted.


2) Call for reforms to the CFAA that would protect innovators and Internet users by clarifying that terms of service violations are not tantamount to federal crimes.

According to Demand Progress's executive director David Segal, "Aaron's tragic passing has illuminated the absurdity of the CFAA as never before.  This law is interpreted in a way that means that millions of Americans -- perhaps even most Americans -- could be considered criminals.

That's a hallmark of authoritarianism that runs contrary to the interests and wants of most Americans and to the values upon which our country was founded -- and stifles free speech and innovation. Now is the time for reform."


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Demand Progress works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing, lobbying, and elections in the United States.

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