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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Citizen and more than a dozen law professors have filed an amicus brief to dismiss the federal government’s criminal case against a Missouri woman who used a false identity on a MySpace page to bully a teenager who ultimately committed suicide. Federal prosecutors contend that the woman, Lori Drew, created a MySpace account under the name “Josh Evans” and, using that false identity, developed an online relationship with Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl who later committed suicide. In bringing charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the government argues that Drew’s false identity and harassment violated MySpace’s terms of service by committing “unauthorized access” or “exceeding authorized access” to a computer. In their brief, filed last week, the amicus groups argue that the government’s case is based on a flawed interpretation of the CFAA. “The Government’s novel and unprecedented response to what everyone recognizes as a tragic situation would create a reading of the CFAA that has dangerous ramifications far beyond the facts here,” the brief states. “This effort to stretch the computer crime law in order to punish Defendant Drew for Miss Meier’s death would convert the millions of internet-using Americans who disregard the terms of service associated with online services into federal criminals.” The brief says that the CFAA prohibits hacking, not the violation of contractual agreements. The government’s interpretation of the CFAA also violates First Amendment rights since almost one third of users of social network sites admit to falsifying information on their accounts, the brief says. Individuals might want to remain anonymous for valid reasons, such as avoiding unwanted advertising or profiling. Tying the CFAA to terms of service makes the statute unconstitutionally vague, as well. In addition to the three groups, more than a dozen law professors specializing in cybercrime, Internet law and criminal law, joined the brief, including three from Stanford Law School: Lauren Gelman, executive director of the Center for Internet and Society; Mark A. Lemley, director of the Program in Law, Science and Technology; and Robert Weisberg, director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. The other professors include: Susan Brenner, professor of law and technology at the University of Dayton School of Law; Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons, associate professor at the University of Toledo College of Law; Eric Goldman, assistant professor of law and director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law; Paul K. Ohm, associate professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School; Michael Risch, associate professor of law at West Virginia University College of Law; Jason Schultz, acting director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Brian G. Slocum, associate professor of law at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law; Daniel J. Solove, law professor at George Washington University Law School; and William McGeveran, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Lawyers for Drew, who has pleaded not guilty, filed similar motions to dismiss last month. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California, which is handling the case, declined to comment.

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