Tag Archives: law
“So who is responsible? I can’t claim familiarity with Dutch law (although I’m assuming tulips have special rights), but I’ve argued before that in the United States the First Amendment protection of free speech extends to robots—including bots. It would be unconstitutional for American police to require van der Goot to shut down the bot if its speech qualified as constitutionally protected speech.
“True threats” are not protected under the First Amendment, and the Amsterdam police certainly considered the bot’s tweet just that. But it’s hard to say whether the tweet expressed sufficient “intent to intimidate” to qualify as a true threat without having more information about the tweet, the bot, and the circumstances around it. In Virginia v. Black, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government “may choose to prohibit only those forms of intimidation that are most likely to inspire fear of bodily harm.” If the bot’s tweet was not reasonably likely to inspire fear of bodily harm given all of the facts, the Constitution would have prohibited police efforts to delete it, even though it’s not a person. If the bot’s tweet falls within constitutionally protected speech, no one would have had criminal responsibility because there would be no crime.” (John Frank Weaver, Slate)
Enforcing the law is complicated for a variety of reasons, including highly sophisticated software that scalpers use to crack computer systems that companies such as Ticketmaster use to sell tickets. There are also jurisdiction issues because sometimes out-of-state scalpers will target shows in Tennessee.
The law labeled the ticket-seller — most often Ticketmaster — as the aggrieved party that must bring forward charges. The law makes it illegal to own, use or share bot software. Violation of the law is a class A misdemeanor punishable by $500 per ticket, or any profits made from each instance, whichever is higher. There have been no prosecutions in Nashville since the law took effect in 2008, according to the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office. (Nate Rau, The Tennessean)
The owner of such sites as cupidswand.com, flirtcrowd.com and findmelove.com reportedly allowed consumers to set up free dating profiles with personal information and photos. Users with those free accounts would receive messages from people who appeared to be nearby. But only someone with a paid membership could reply to messages.
But the messages those free account-holders received “were almost always from fake, computer-generated profiles — ‘Virtual Cupids’ — created by the defendants, with photos and information designed to closely mimic the profiles of real people,” according to the FTC. The only indication that such profiles didn’t belong to genuine members was a vanishingly small “VC” icon. And the only explanation of what that tiny icon meant was “buried in a terms and conditions page,” according to the FTC.
People would sign up for accounts that ranged from $10 to $30 a month, only to be disappointed when the “person” whose interest had encouraged them to join suddenly evaporated. (Erik Sherman, Daily Finance)
Image: Mimi Haddon / Getty Images