Free Electronic Press ANALYSIS

By Simson L. Garfinkel, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 1990 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Free Electronic Press ANALYSIS


Simson L. Garfinkel, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


IN their zeal to clamp down on computer crime, federal investigators seem to be confusing people who commit crimes with those who are reporting and reading about them in the electronic media.

Consider, for example, the criminal trial of Craig Neidorf, a 19-year-old student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., scheduled to begin today in Chicago. He is charged with wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. The property in question: a 12-page document describing the administrative structure of telephone company offices responsible for enhanced 911 service that appeared in his electronic magazine.

Mr. Neidorf is the editor and publisher of "Phrak," a magazine of the computer underground. Many of Phrak's contributors are computer "crackers," who used the magazine to write about their adventures breaking into computer systems.

But Neidorf never broke into any computer himself, and he never published sensitive information like credit-card numbers or passwords. He was indicted, among other things, for receiving the 911 document in his electronic mailbox. It is as if a newspaper publisher were indicted for receiving a leaked corporate report.

"In my review of the law, I have never seen the government try so blatantly to step on the First Amendment," says Sheldon Zenner, Neidorf's attorney. "My guess is that if it was the New York Times, as in the Pentagon Papers case, they wouldn't prosecute: not because they believe that there is a First Amendment distinction, but because they are not going to take (a newspaper) on. They will take on a 19-year-old kid who publishes out of his dorm room in the University of Missouri, because he is an ant."

Some computer professionals feel that the real issue isn't Neidorf's age and lack of clout but his printing presses: He doesn't have any. Phrak is published electronically, through computer networks and electronic mail systems. 2600, a printed hacker's magazine, has not received similar treatment from the government, even though it has published many similar articles.

"It is our contention that if Neidorf had done what he had done in a printed publication, either he wouldn't have been charged at all, or you would have heard the screams from coast to coast," says Mitchell Kapor, author of the popular Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program, who now heads his own software company in Cambridge, Mass.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Free Electronic Press ANALYSIS
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?