A hacker who pushed anti-semitic and racist messages to unsecured printers throughout the United States last month way run afoul of a little known law as The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.
The hack, which was executed by Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, saw numerous printers at universities through out the USA endlessly spewing out a message for people to join a white-supremacist group known as The Daily Stormer.
The legality of the hack was brought into question as Auernheimer didn’t actually hack anything. The ports of the printers were all facing the internet and were not protected in any way.
But according to a report on Forbes, Auernheimer may have broken a law that he may not have known existed.
Professor of Law and Computer Science at Northeastern University, Andrew Matwyshyn revealed to Forbes that Auernheimer may have unknowingly broken the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.
The law was put in place to stop individuals and companies from sending unsolicited fax messages to a fax number (of which the broad definition includes computers and printers) which was not voluntarily supplied by the recipient.
The idea behind the law is that when an unsolicited fax is sent the owner of the printer cannot use those resources. While the law may sound trivial, the punishment for breaking it is a $500 fine, per print-out.
An issue of speech
“Standing on the street corner screaming your message is generally protected speech, you are not protected at the point at which you usurp my poster board and my markers to create a poster board that announces your speech,” Matwyshyn was quoted as saying.
But as Auernheimer pointed out in a tweet, the Junk Fax Protection Act “only covers commercial speech“, and that he is not an employee of Daily Stormer, nor did he consult with the group before executing the hack.
Arguing this in court however, will be tricky as in a blog post, Auernheimer mentioned that “he elected one of the Daily Stormer crew to ‘make some postscript for us.'”
Speaking to Forbes via Twitter, Auernheimer explained that this person was a member of the Daily Stormer IRC channel and not necessarily an employee of the website.
How exactly this will pan out is unclear as Auernheimer’s message is protected under The First Amendment, but having to argue that there was no input by Daily Stormer and that they weren’t consulted when Auernheimer’s blog post reads to the contrary is going to be tough.
Similarly, anybody looking to bring Auernheimer to task is going to have a tough time proving he was acting under the direction of the Daily Stormer.
One thing we are certain of is that given Auernheimer’s history with the law, this is a story to keep your eye on.[Via – Forbes] [Image – CC BY/2.0 Jamison Judd]