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Newsgroups: comp.risks
X-issue: 10.05
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 90 12:43:53 EDT
Subject: Re: 2600 article

>...suggests that I can be arrested based on the contents/usage of my
>BBS, even when I'm unaware of that usage...
> seems to me that the Electronic Privacy Act prevents me from taking
>any actions which would let me prevent the misuse of my board...

The real problem here is that the courts are still fumbling with the question
of whether electronic media are publishers or common carriers.

A publisher, e.g. of a newspaper, is very definitely responsible for what he
prints, and cannot claim innocence just because he wasn't paying attention to
what the reporters were writing that day.  A common carrier, e.g. the phone
company, merely provides communication services and bears no responsibility for
the content of messages.  Most electronic media fall in a vast gray area in
between, and nobody can really predict how a major court case would go.

Eventually, precedents and legislation will settle things.  Meanwhile, one
should not be surprised if law-enforcement people assume the worst.  Deciding
who is guilty and who is innocent is the courts' job, not theirs.  In the
absence of solid rules (nonexistent as yet) and informed judgement (unlikely,
given that most of them are computer-illiterate), they have few options.  When
they don't understand what's going on and the rulebook doesn't help, but there
are definitely people being victimized, all they can do is arrest those who
appear to be involved and hope they aren't too far wrong.

Henry Spencer at U of Toronto Zoology               uunet!attcan!utzoo!henry

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