Violating Terms of Service could be criminal

The Department of Justice has in the past taken the stance that violating the terms of service of a website is a criminal act, such as in the cases US v. Drew and US v. Nosal. With this, many underage people would be violating the law when on the internet, even when they are on news websites. Due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection and for other reasons, many news sites have it in their terms of service that one has to be 18 or over to view their articles. While this has not yet become legal precedent, there’s a proposal in the House Judiciary Committee to make this a modification to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Many consider the law as it is too broad and vague, as it allows selective persecution, such as with Aaron Swartz. With the suggested changes, this would make the law extremely prone to abuse, as it applies to such a broad part of the population. I think that this proposal speaks a lot about the disparity between legal policy and technology, and that it goes against the Kantian view of individuals as autonomous moral agents. People should be able to decide for themselves if they want to view the content of a website, though there should exist a method that allows them to know what they might be viewing beforehand, which I think that the terms of service currently exist to fulfill.

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