The prosecution of Julie Amero, which was summarized in today’s NYT, shows that Luddism can get you in real trouble.  Amero is a substitute schoolteacher who apparently knows so little about computers and the Internet that when her classroom machine started spewing uncontrollable pornographic popups, she either didn’t know how to power off the monitor or was afraid to, or both.  And for this a local prosecutor pursued her for injuring the children in her care, and a jury convicted her.

Amero sounds witless, not venal, and her ignorance shouldn’t be a crime.  But if there are Luddites in this mess  — people who have little interest in the workings of new technology — they seem to be the prosecutors and the jurors, and perhaps the judge and even some school administrators, who apparently all but ignored credible testimony regarding pop-ups, pop-unders, and spyware and may have been indifferent to the condition of school computers.

The lesson here, beyond the obvious injustice of a criminal conviction, is how quickly we forget or, perhaps, how little many people care.  The Internet has gone from being an amazing, other-worldly technology only ten years ago to being so of-this-world and ordinary that a prosecutor can convince a jury that it is a criminal act not to understand how to deal with it.  As always, we take technology for granted at our peril.

2 Thoughts to “‘Tis a Pity She’s a Luddite?”

  1. Jennifer Chandler is working on a very interesting paper documenting courts’ frequent habit of forcing people to adopt or get used to new technology, even if it is invasive. Her Technoprudence course also addresses this phenomenon.

  2. […] My Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning reminded me that Congress is encouraging the IRS and the FTC to deal with http://www.irs.com, http://www.irs.net, and http://www.irs.org – websites that offer tax-related information but that may confuse consumers into thinking that they are reading the real and official Internal Revenue Service website, which is located at http://www.irs.gov.  The problem here reminds me, again, of some important socio-cultural problems when it comes to consumer protection and the Internet.  Why don’t people learn?  More after the break.Conventional wisdom has it that we’ve been using the popular version of the World Wide Web for more than a decade, so we all have figured it out.  Anyone who hasn’t figured it out even runs the risk of being put in jail, at least if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The fact that the convention wisdom may well be wrong in the IRS case (and wrong still, as anyone who visited http://www.whitehouse.com will remember) raises an important question:  Why haven’t people learned this stuff already? […]

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