The World’s Real ‘Cybercrime’ Problem
Definitions of it remain too vague and broad
When you think of the word "cybercrime," what comes to mind? Shadowy hackers infiltrating a network? Ransomware gangs taking a school’s systems hostage? What about a person violating a social network’s terms of service, paying for cocaine using Venmo or publishing disinformation?
If you live in the United States, cybercrime can mean virtually any illegal act that involves a computer. The vague and varied definitions of “cybercrimes” or related terms in U.S. federal and state law have long troubled civil liberties advocates who see people charged with additional crimes simply because the internet was involved. And without clear, narrowly tailored, universal definitions of cybercrime, the problem may soon become a global one.
The United Nations is negotiating an international cybersecurity treaty that risks enshrining the same type of broad language that’s present in U.S. federal and state cybercrime statutes and the laws of countries like China and Iran. According to a coalition of civil liberties groups, the draft treaty’s list of “cybercrimes” is so expansive that they threaten journalists, security researchers, whistleblowers, and human rights writ large.
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