Don’t Prohibit Minors from Reading News Websites

Target: Members of Congress

Goal: Don’t allow teenagers under 18 to be charged with criminal acts simply for reading a website

Until recently, reading an established online publication such as NBC News or the San Francisco Chronicle could have potentially gotten you arrested if you were under the age of eighteen. How is this possible? Thanks to a rather loose interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), anyone who violates a website’s terms and conditions (such as the condition many news sites have about minors not being allowed to access their material) risks jail time.

The Miami Herald, the Houston Chronicle, and even the website for National Public Broadcasting (NPR) and the online magazine Seventeen (which is geared towards 17-year-olds) were and/or are technically forbidden to users below the age of eighteen because of the CFAA. That’s right: 17-year-olds could have been convicted of a crime for reading an online magazine that is intended to be read by 17-year-olds.

Thankfully, major publications such as The Boston Globe and New York Times have already re-worded their terms and conditions to only bar those below the age of thirteen, but that still doesn’t solve the inherent problems found in the CFAA. The Act’s wording, which as has already been shown could potentially cause minors to be charged with criminal acts simply for visiting a website, is in need of a serious overhaul. Help urge Congress to reform the CFAA’s obtuse and broad language to better protect people’s online rights without endangering the rights of minors.


Dear members of the United States Congress,

I urge you to look closely at the language that is used within the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and make some much needed changes to the Act. As it currently stands, violating a website’s terms and conditions (which, for many online publications, are nothing more than simply being over a certain age) can carry with it severe criminal penalties.

While it is important for online companies to protect their rights and the rights of their users, the terms set within the CFAA are taking it many steps too far. By signing this petition letter, I am personally asking you to bring much needed reforms to the CFAA and ensure that the online privacy rights of some don’t come at the cost of others.


[Your Name Here]

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