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Should Making Fake Facebook Profiles be Illegal?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 21, 2011 6:44 AM

Depending on who you talk to, and which federal prosecutor you encounter, creating a fake Facebook profile may be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law designed to punish unauthorized access to computers.

Relying on language that makes it a misdemeanor to "exceed authorized access" to computer systems, a number of people have been prosecuted for violating a private website's terms of service.

Senators Al Franken and Chuck Grassley would like such prosecutions to stop.

In addition to prosecuting persons for creating fake Facebook profiles, respected legal scholar Orin Kerr points to cases where defendants were charged after violating workplace internet policies and using automated scripts to purchase tickets online.

Noting the absurdity of criminalizing such behavior, Forbes reports that Senators Franken and Grassley proposed an amendment last week to clarify the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, affirmatively telling prosecutors that these charges are not okay.

The language, if accepted, would exempt from prosecution access that only violates contractual obligations "such as an acceptable use policy or terms of service agreement, with an Internet service provider, Internet website, or non-government employer."

If passed, punishment for fake Facebook profiles and the access of improper content at work will be handled privately.

As an amendment, the bill must still make its way through the Senate, and eventually be considered by the House. If you don't believe in the criminalization of fake Facebook profiles under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, you should consider contacting your Senator and let your opinion be heard.

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