WASHINGTON -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) took to the online forum Aaron Swartz helped found on Tuesday night to propose legislation honoring the late Internet activist.
"I'm Rep. Zoe Lofgren & I'm introducing 'Aaron's Law' to change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act," Lofgren wrote in a Reddit post. Swartz, 26, committed suicide on Friday.
Lofgren said many were "deeply troubled" as they learned more about how the Justice Department approached its case against Swartz. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who heads the House Oversight Committee, told HuffPost on Tuesday he had an investigator looking into the handling of the case.
"His family’s statement about this speaks volumes about the inappropriate efforts undertaken by the U.S. government," Lofgren wrote. "There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced."
Lofgren's legislation, which she would like to call "Aaron's Law," would help "prevent what happened to Aaron from happening to other Internet users," Lofgren wrote. She continued:
The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute. It looks like the government used the vague wording of those laws to claim that violating an online service’s user agreement or terms of service is a violation of the CFAA and the wire fraud statute.
Using the law in this way could criminalize many everyday activities and allow for outlandishly severe penalties.
When our laws need to be modified, Congress has a responsibility to act. A simple way to correct this dangerous legal interpretation is to change the CFAA and the wire fraud statutes to exclude terms of service violations. I will introduce a bill that does exactly that. In addition to the posted link, a draft copy of the bill is available here. In coming days, I will seek cosponsors for the bill from both political parties.
Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison on 13 felony charges for downloading millions of academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. JSTOR had urged prosecutors to drop their case, which hinged on Swartz violating the terms of service agreement with JSTOR for downloading too many articles at once.
Read Lofgren's full post here.