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A Word About Our Blog Entries

The Julie Group shares a professional interest in the area of digital and emerging technology and law. As professionals there is a rich and deep appreciation for the differences of opinion that can appear in this space. You must never assume that opinion, where it is introduced is universally shared and endorsed by all our volunteers. Nor are they necessarily the very best snapshot of a given issue.

Readers are expected to think about the issues, question everything worth discussing, and add value to the conversation by correcting what's here or broadening the understanding of the subject. This is part of the educational process between us all. Our hope is that this exercise results in better law, law enforcement, and citizen participation in forging sophisticated social understandings of the technological forces changing our lives.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Slow Progress

Despite the appearance that nothing is going on, our volunteers are busy behind the scenes working on some basic needs the group has to create a working relationship and a professional delivery system.

Aside from that we have once again identified some patterns of use and abuse that we will begin to invite all of you to participate in exploring to one degree or another. Some of the detective work will always need to be private.

But some of it is a democratic conversation that only citizens can remediate.

Something all of you can begin to think about is the question of what constitutes fair punishment for a given crime? Julie Amero captured the world's attention by being found guilty of involuntarily exposing students to inappropriate content and potentially being sentenced to forty years in jail (the prosecutor - playing devil's advocate and enjoying the kill - whispered to Julie eighteen years). A teacher put in this position could in some places plea bargain down to a charge of murder and get a lighter sentence. In fact local newspapers described murder cases with far lighter sentences concurrent to Julie's ordeal.

Some of us believe the justice system is broken and absurd when it has to deal with disruptive technologies. For example, pornographers are the first adopters of artificially generated computer behaviors that make machines misbehave in the eyes of the law. Yet the authorities are charging the person closest to the misbehaving machine with the crime.

A teacher exposed to the irresponsibilities of students commandeering computers are easy, unsuspecting targets. Are pornographic pictures suddenly found on infected computers indicative of rampant criminal intent by middle-aged, married, middle-school teachers or is there a more sensible conclusion we can come to?

We'd like you all to think about this and let the world know your thoughts and ideas on fixing these legal issues. We'll attempt to feature the best ideas in later entries.

Word of mouth is often the best educational process we can invest in.

1 comment:

cyber_eagle said...

I just wanted to voice my support for this whole project. There have been SO many times I have cringed at how the law seemed to grossly misunderstand the technical details of a case, falling victim to the metaphors we use in UI's and making legal judgements based on the words they happen to use, instead of really understanding what actually went on.

In the Julie Amero case the prosecution was able to put forward limited analysis of the evidence and use it to their advantage. You pointed out the misgivings in that and created precedent making it much easier for the defense to claim that is not enough evidence to prove what someone did, forcing the prosecution to present a more complete analysis if they want to have a hope of winning. I do not really know how you got the courts to listen, but the fact that so many people publicly came forward to point out how stupid the original judgements were probably had a lot to do with it. Being heard is important.

The way I see it then, theres 3 sides to the whole thing:
1) Detective work, actual technical investigation using the expertise the courts lack on their own
2) Having a relationship with the courts such that they we can present them with things
3) To secure 2), a high public profile is needed. Publishing things online, maybe (in the general rather than specific cases perhaps) the mainstream media, and generally having a loud enough voice so they can't brush us aside as crazies.

As for what is fair punishment, I'm more of the opinion that jail is really for dangerous people, to protect society from them. I'd like to see more use of more extensive community service, fines and such things. But I'm not sure my computer geekery really affects this opinion, and perhaps with my computer expert hat (yes, its white) its not even my place to say.