The American Civil Liberties Union heads to federal court to fight the constitutionality of an anti-hacking law.
Upon reviewing the lawsuit, Reuters reported on Wednesday (June 29) that the ACLU is challenging the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by claiming it infringes on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protections.
“In the digital age, with everyone experimenting with new uses of big data, algorithms, and machine-learning, it's crucial that researchers be able to engage in anti-discrimination testing online,” ACLU staff attorneys Esha Bhandari and Rachel Goodman said in a post explaining the lawsuit.
“But a federal computer crimes law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, is creating a significant barrier to research and testing necessary to uncover online discrimination in everything from housing to employment,” they continued.
The ACLU has filed the claim on behalf of a group of academic researchers, computer scientists and journalists who have all faced the barrier posed by the CFAA’s broad prohibitions, which have prevented them from collecting data to investigate if online algorithms are indeed discriminatory.
The CFAA stops individuals from actions such as providing false information, creating multiple accounts, or using automated methods of recording publicly available data, but the ACLU says these methods are tests for discrimination on the internet.
“The CFAA violates the First Amendment because it limits everyone, including academics and journalists, from gathering the publicly available information necessary to understand and speak about online discrimination,” the ACLU said.