What is Aaron's Law?
Aaron's Law comes into effect on the death of Aaron Swartz, a respected and acclaimed political activist, computer programmer, and entrepreneur who founded Demand Progress and co-founded Reddit. Swartz died on January 11, 2013 at the age of 26.
Introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Aaron's law would change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CAFA) and the Wire Fraud Act. In 2010, Swartz was charged with fraud and hacking of 13 criminal offenses under these laws. If Swartz had been convicted, he might have been sentenced to a hefty fine or could have received a prison sentence of up to 35 years.
On January 16, MP Lofgren publicly told Reddit that the charges against Swartz were in large part due to the sweeping and generalized language of the CAFA and wire fraud statute. According to Rep. Lofgren, if out of context or unexplained, the CAFA could criminalize a range of 'everyday' activities, allowing for severely enforceable penalties.
Rep. Lofgren is not alone in her stance against the murky nature of the bill. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), CAFA's lack of specificity and clarity has led prosecutors to bring charges that target conduct beyond hacking. One example is the US vs. Drew, where a woman created a fake MySpace page to molest a young girl who then committed suicide. In this case, the bullying was not illegal, so Drew was charged with violating the CAFA. A change in the CAFA would prevent misuse of the general language of the invoice.