Lying on Facebook could become federal crime

Have you ever lied on Match.com? Or created an account on Facebook using a fake name?

Many 'Harvard graduates' may soon be retooling their online profiles.

Did I say I went to Harvard? I meant ABAC! (AP Photo)

Do you have a teenage child that uses Google?

These common online behaviors aren’t illegal, yet.

A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice appeared before Congress Tuesday asking that august body to strengthen laws to “[improve] cybersecurity [of] our nation’s critical infrastructure, and the federal government’s own networks and computers.”

Noble goals, surely.

But the changes requested by Richard Downing, deputy chief of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice, would also broadly criminalize many things Americans currently do online, NPR reports.

The Justice Department, it seems, want to make it a crime to violate a website’s terms of service.

No one bothers to actually read those things, but it is a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to provide any false information on your profile (like your height), create an account for anyone other than yourself (including pseudonyms), create more than one account. Match.com and other sites have similar rules.

Downing told Congress the new law would merely be “the latest development in the steady stream of progress we are making in securing cyberspace.”

Downing seems to realize that criminalizing violations of website terms of service is taking it too far in his testimony:

Some have argued that this can lead to prosecutions based
upon “mere” violations of website terms of service or use policies.  As a result, some have
argued that the definition of “exceeds authorized access” in the CFAA should be restricted to
disallow prosecutions based upon a violation of contractual agreements with an employer or
service provider.  We appreciate this view, but we are concerned that that restricting the statute in
this way would make it difficult or impossible to deter and address serious insider threats through
prosecution.

Some have argued that this can lead to prosecutions based upon “mere” violations of website terms of service or use policies.  As a result, some have argued that the definition of “exceeds authorized access” in the [Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ] should be restricted to disallow prosecutions based upon a violation of contractual agreements with an employer or service provider [such as Facebook ].  We appreciate this view, but we are concerned that that restricting the statute in this way would make it difficult or impossible to deter and address serious insider threats through prosecution.

George Washington professor and attorney  Orin S. Kerr pointed out to Congress that the new law would expose millions of Americans to federal prosecution.

The current version of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) poses a threat to the civil liberties of the millions of Americans who use computers and the Internet. As interpreted by the Justice Department, many if not most computer users violate the CFAA on a regular basis. Any of them could face arrest and criminal prosecution.

… The CFAA criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake name on Facebook or lying about your weight in an online dating profile. That situation is intolerable. Routine computer use should not be a crime.

Kerr said the law is so broad it would make it a federal offense for a young teen to use Google, or to lie about how often you visit the gym on Match.com.

The Terms of Service of the popular Internet search engine Google.com says that “[y]ou may not use” Google if “you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google.”  The legal age of contract formation in most states is 18. As a result, a 17-year-old who conducts a Google search in the course of researching a term paper has likely violated Google’s Terms of Service. According to the Justice Department’s interpretation of the statute, he or she is a criminal.

Lying on a dating site?

The Terms of Use of the popular Internet dating site Match.com says that “You will not provide inaccurate, misleading or false information . . . to any other Member.” If a user writes in his profile that he goes to the gym every day – but in truth he goes only once a month – he has violated Match.com’s Terms of Use. Similarly, a man who claims to be 5 foot 10 inches tall, but is only 5 foot 9 inches tall, has violated the Terms. So has a woman who claims to 32 years old but really is 33 years old. One study has suggested that about 80% of Internet dating profiles contain false or misleading information about height, weight and age alone.

Kerr takes his argument to absurdist realms.

Terms of Use can be arbitrary and even nonsensical. Anyone can set up a website and announce whatever Terms of Use they like. Perhaps the Terms of Use will declare that only registered Democrats can visit the website; or only people who have been to Alaska; or only people named “Frank.” Under the Justice Department’s interpretation of the statute, all of these Terms of Use can be criminally enforced.

Maybe the Patriot Act isn’t so bad after all.

93 comments Add your comment

Jaded Guy

November 16th, 2011
12:54 pm

QUESTION:

Do you know how to tell if the girl you love is lying to you?

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

November 16th, 2011
12:56 pm

I drive a Porsche. I pronounce it” poorsh”

Jaded Guy

November 16th, 2011
12:59 pm

ANSWER:

Her warm, plump, red, duplicitous lips are moving.

That, and her Facebook profile status has suddenly changed to “Single” and being updated with pictures that you took of her while she is openly making unsolicited professions of her love for you while she is continually stating how much she wants to want to marry you and be the mother of your children.

Jaded Guy

November 16th, 2011
1:01 pm

…and secretly going out with other men she meets through Facebook (with her clandestinely updated status) while you continue to waste your emotions and hard-earned, over-taxed money on her.

JJ

November 16th, 2011
1:04 pm

@Jaded – GET OUT NOW!!! You don’t deserve that treatment. Move on, you will find the one who’s meant for you. And if you don’t then embrace the single life of being able to do what you want, when you want, and with who you want. But don’t look on FB, Match.com, etc. Get out……get a dog, go to the park, hit the grocery store……we single women are everywhere looking for a good man!!!

Dump this beyotch, and move on!!! Life is too short to be treated like that.

JJ

November 16th, 2011
1:06 pm

And NO it should NOT be illegal to like on FB. That’s not a crime worthy of jail time…..

If you locked up all the liars, the jails would be full of politicans!!!! Aren’t our jails crowded enough?Haven’t we all lied at one point in our lives?

I can see the discussion – Hey what are you in for? Oh, I lied on Facebook……Really?????

JJ

November 16th, 2011
1:06 pm

~lie~ not like on FB….

JustMe

November 16th, 2011
1:07 pm

Seriously? Do they not have better things, not to mention much more important things to be concentrating on? I mean, really, WTH is wrong with these people?!?!

CatLover

November 16th, 2011
1:09 pm

If it is a crime, my husband’s ex-wife will be serving life in prison!!!

ATLFalcons Fan

November 16th, 2011
1:13 pm

That’s why I don’t use Facebook as much anymore. Your personal computer is probably the closest thing anyone has to reading your mind. You could look up my browser history just for the past 4 hours and you would know so much about me, who I am, what I am going through at this point in my life, etc. I have already stopped posting picture and information on FB and only use it communicate. The fact is when it first came out it was interesting to see what all my long lost friends, exes, nemesis, were doing but now I know so it’s getting kind of old. – I’m tired of seeing people write down what they had for lunch, or complain that they just took their Mercedes to the shop ( i get it you drive a mercedes), FB is becoming lame.

DC

November 16th, 2011
1:22 pm

This is exactly what’s wrong with America. We should be more concerned with more important issues and liars.

Nana

November 16th, 2011
1:23 pm

If malicious intent can be proven….maybe. But seriously…..it is a crime to lie…breaking one of God’s law…if you believe in God. And, oh wait, if you are someplace you shouldn’t be and you breath…should it be a crime? It is possible to make an argument against most anything but does it have to labeled a crime? Seriously people…there are more important things.

beebee

November 16th, 2011
1:29 pm

Advice for you people looking for someone.
Give it TIME before you try to date them. If you can, find out what they are about. Like in that movie “Coming To America.” The Prince noticed the young lady working to raise money. Do they volunteer at anything? What else are they about?
Michelle Obama turned Barack down at first. Then she went to one of him community meetings and something about what he was doing changed her heart about him.
Some of you people just rush right back home with folks and into bed and you think you found the one. UNTIL….

Not again, not ever again.

November 16th, 2011
1:30 pm

I think if they want to get liers they need to start at the top. Start with Obama, then move to Bidden, then move to the house and senate. You know, start where the liers really do some damage.

beebee

November 16th, 2011
1:31 pm

sorry ’bout your ordeals jaded (and all you jadeds out there). but these are choices YOU are making!

bee

Nimrod

November 16th, 2011
1:37 pm

It should be a capital offense to claim you drive a Mercedes unless, like me, you actually do own one free & clear. (Mine is a blue convertible, girls.)

And justice for all ... (those who can afford it)

November 16th, 2011
1:40 pm

I can’t even get the justice system to charge my ex with a misdemeanor for admitingly lying to me about having and exposing me to Hepatitis C for 18 months … but not to fear, I can put his name on the internet to hopefully be found by his next victim, right? Wrong!!! He was able to get a protective order against ME to stop me from harassing HIM. Just when you think it’s legal to tell the truth …

Can'tWaitToSeeThisOnePass

November 16th, 2011
1:42 pm

…does this mean that all the politicians on Facebook will suddenly have to tell the truth?

Pardon me, I’ll be in the back corner laughing.

Allen

November 16th, 2011
1:46 pm

Anything stated in print or “virtual” print should be liable. Not only false statments about one’s own self, but false statements about anyone else or anything else.

Greg

November 16th, 2011
1:53 pm

This is to stifle free speech so they trace who says anything against the Government, this shows there is no difference between the two parties. This is fascist activities or something Hitler would come up with. Sad for once was free America. The Gov in NY said they had to break up the protesters park because of violence and people had weapons, he was right except the people with weapons and doing violence were the police by far. What do you expect he is a 1 percenter who bought his office with 200 mil.

LawDawg

November 16th, 2011
1:56 pm

Why is it that Americans are so willing to give up freedom and privacy in the face of technology? This country is going to be a scary place in 20 years or so.

Cammi317

November 16th, 2011
2:02 pm

What a WASTE of taxpayer $$$’s!

Shannana

November 16th, 2011
2:07 pm

How do we get the government OUT OF OUR LIVES?!

Drew

November 16th, 2011
2:24 pm

Sounds like a great way to kill the Internet and billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity. Who would want to use the Internet under a law like this? This proposal will never pass.

markie mark

November 16th, 2011
2:35 pm

LawDawg, we been doing it for a long time, except has been freedom for security….When we find that we are all safe and secure (not) we find out it is because anything we wish to do has been prohibited “for our protection”….

Bad Guy

November 16th, 2011
3:03 pm

Justice. Facts on your facebook are not harrassment…. I would check again.

JESSUP

November 16th, 2011
3:12 pm

a crime? get real !! it’s face book ( AKA farcebrook). anyone with an IQ above 3 ignores this stupid phenom.

Pam

November 16th, 2011
3:18 pm

Or, how about we all stop using Facebook instead and not go to jail. Would Mark Z perfer that instead

Seriously?

November 16th, 2011
3:24 pm

Who gives a rat’s banana about Facebook? Put a few Congressional back room swindler cronies in jail before you come to me with this nonsense!

S

November 16th, 2011
3:24 pm

They should require that all individuals creating an individual page BE real human individuals and that does not include a bot, or a person creating a fake identity or an identity in some other persons name. The wording of that law, regarding it being a crime to lie on FB, etc., should be carefully and tightly phrased. Probably, it needs to say something like “….while committing a felony….”, “….commission of crime while using false identity, false and misleading information….”; words to this effect, and THEN tack on additional charges and time.

False identities open the door for a lot of the misbehavior that has become a real problem on FB and other sites. Even bullying is made worse by this issue.

They ALSO NEED TO MAKE IT A CRIME to post under another person’s name on Facebook, make statements as if you are them, or include statements made by that person in the past in a posting that you put on the internet or social website. This is a problem with FB also.

Teresa

November 16th, 2011
3:28 pm

start prosecution at the white house

Teresa

November 16th, 2011
3:29 pm

you will find a gang of liars there

Samantha

November 16th, 2011
3:36 pm

This is crazy! If they do that then idenity theft will sky rocket! This is completely crazy. The real reason why I think they are trying to make it illegal for a person to lie about their name or other things is so they could catch criminals. Why should we law abiding citizens have to suffer because of them and risk having our identiy stolen? As tax paying citizens we should be able to vote for or against this!

And justice for all ... (those who can afford it)

November 16th, 2011
3:38 pm

Bad Guy, I wish that were true. I cannot engage in any communication/behavior that could possibly incite someone to harass or harm him in any way. He alleges being harassed by folks whom I told about his condition, specifically guys whose girlfriends (wives) have dated him and also therefore were probably exposed.

CK

November 16th, 2011
3:40 pm

Give me a break. A crime to lie, create another account, blah blah blah,..first – who is going to monitor this? We don’t have tax dollars (supposedly) to hire new teachers, but their going to spend them towards “securing cyberspace”…a lot more problems than targeting and ruining facebook in our nation, but it is just another step towards Socialism which is inevitable in our nation. Next thing you know it will be illegal to sit in my own chair in my own house with nothing but my boxers on. By the way, I am 6 foot 5, black hair, wearing leather pants, carry a glock, and go by the name Hoss…on NO! I just lied….please try to fine me or inprison me…I’m looking forward to seeing the judge laugh at this one. Heres another thing, judges and clerks will get TIRED and COMPLAIN about the number of incidents that are happening. Too much paperwork, too much overhead, too much to finance it,….give the money to small business!!!! stop screwing our inheritant right to complain, laugh, and joke. Let the companies..like Facebook….make their own decisions ya liberal jerks.

VOTE THEM OUT!

November 16th, 2011
3:43 pm

Freedom? We don’t need no stinking freedom?

bev

November 16th, 2011
3:47 pm

Umm…hello! People can lie anytime! We’ve certainly seen this with many politicians who lied to all of America and still do, especially when it comes to their extramarital affairs!! The court system would be overloaded with liars!!

Also, ask yourself, “have I ever lied about anything to anyone?” I bet the answer’s yes!

Big Daddy Roy T Goodnuff

November 16th, 2011
3:52 pm

“I can’t even get the justice system to charge my ex with a misdemeanor for admitingly lying to me about having and exposing me to Hepatitis C for 18 months “……..damn dude that sucks 50lb bags….hope you come out of it.

Thomas Jefferson

November 16th, 2011
3:55 pm

Yes, I just rolled over in my grave. I said a great deal of things in my life, even lied, especially to my wife about the children I had with slaves. I lied, I begged with politicians, and I literally went through hell standing up for my country. Today, I lay buttocks up towards a country that has lost all sight of freedom. Dure, things have changed since I’ve been gone, but the principal of democracy starts with the people and equality. An equal people who are not perfect, who are human, and who will never attain some utopian dream or peace. While this gentleman has the right to propose this legislation, under a true democracy WE THE PEOPLE have a right to keep it from passing into law, but in modern times I am afraid that just doesn’t happen. Pity. Shame on the branches of government for abusing law. I said it once, I’ll say it again…”Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” People, stand up and act and propose that lying is a nature of the humans and no law can be above nature.

Jeeves

November 16th, 2011
4:04 pm

Dman Dude….I better delete my facebook account

Currently Drunk Dude # 121,509,722

November 16th, 2011
4:08 pm

Yeah, I’m drunk. Think I just lied bout something on myspace. Am i gonna get charged with a DUI on myspace and for lying? just wunderin.

David C

November 16th, 2011
4:28 pm

Seriously, do they really want to put someone in jail for lying about something online. Why they just start with our Political Figures and put them in Jail for every time they lie. Well….. that would be every one in Congress, our President, our Governors, our Mayors ….etc…

willydoit?

November 16th, 2011
4:36 pm

If Facebook hasn’t already, it will eventually, get you or someone in your family in trouble!

Facebook is the DEVIL!!

Judy Bryan

November 16th, 2011
4:48 pm

This would open a can of worms… companies would stay away from social media for sure! Either that or social media sites would have to rewrite their terms of service. People, companies and politicians lie all the time, what’s different with social media? Bottom line… people need to be smart, parents need to be smart.

Dr. Bombay

November 16th, 2011
4:53 pm

“When tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be
in the guise of fighting a foreign foe.” — James Madison

Smarty

November 16th, 2011
4:54 pm

How about a LAW of a politician lying of what he/she can do and then don’t do it??? I think that is really bill that needs to be taken up. Good grief!!

downlouis

November 16th, 2011
5:06 pm

We’re all gonna end up in jail!

EarlyCuyler

November 16th, 2011
5:25 pm

Yup…I knew FB was a government conspiracy to keep tabs on everyone. That is why to this day I have not created an account (amongst other reasons). I bet they want you to use your real name and as much personal info as possible, makes it easier to come and get you or steal your identity. Don’t people use FB to inflate their egos anyway? Is the govt. going to lock you up for posting a touched up photo of yourself w/ a wonderbra on or with a luscious full head of hair and suck your gut in shirt? False advertising right?????

ron

November 16th, 2011
5:47 pm

What is this china!?!

ScrewTheAholesBack

November 16th, 2011
5:55 pm

Then, we all make a site that makes it illegal and against policy for any law official or their families and offices of any and all government to visit. LMAO and then we take them all to court, start with the butt who wanted this a law, TURN THE PAGES. However, we all do need to monitor our ways online from misleading the smallest things to what our children are allowed to do online. Protect our rights by doing whats right.