Compassion For Black Hat Hackers

Micah Scaffer has a great article over at Wired, advocating that we move beyond framing the issue (and law reform) of prosecution in the Aaron Swartz case to that of ‘good hackers’. Instead, he calls for compassion and critical thinking about the aggressive prosecutorial approach and lengthy sentences now given to all computer crimes.  He rightly notes that most hackers are young, and many do not come from the privileged backgrounds of ‘white hats’ like Swartz. His most cutting line comes in his appeal to online/offline consistency:

How do we explain to a young person who hacked their school’s website that they might be imprisoned for five years? Yet if they had physically destroyed the web server with a hammer, they would have faced no more than one year.

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