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Court: Clogging email and voicemail systems can be legal [View All]

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Renew Deal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-15-11 11:33 AM
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Court: Clogging email and voicemail systems can be legal
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A U.S. Appeals Court handed down a ruling this week that, at first blush, gives the public free reign to overflow a company's public email and voicemail systems in the name of a legitimate cause, even if they are intentionally hindering the company's ability to do business in the process.

Companies would be well served to pay attention to the ruling, which continues to flesh out the arguably vague U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It means that, while they may be legally protected from such activities as malicious hacking and spamming, they can't legally prevent people from using public communications channels -- such as email and phone -- to protest a company, even if their tactics amount to a well-orchestrated DoS-style attack.

Whether the precedent set by the ruling should be viewed as a victory for proponents of free speech or for bad guys looking for loopholes to wreak havoc is best left to the beholder.

In a nutshell, here's what happened. The LIUNA (Laborers' International Union of North America) launched a protest against a Michigan-based company called Pulte Homes. The reason for the protest isn't relevant here; the important point is how the union chose to respond. It started bombarding Pulte with vast quantities of targeted emails and phone calls. The union went so far as to employ an auto-dialing service to flood Pulte with calls. The fallout: Pulte's systems couldn't handle the flood of email and calls. They became overloaded, thus hindering Pulte's ability to do business.
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