In a big win for computer scientists and other online researchers, the U.S. Department of Justice recently updated its official charging memo—an internal document used to determine whether federal prosecutors should pursue criminal charges—for computer-fraud cases.
The updated memo includes a carve-out for researchers who create dummy accounts on social media platforms in order to study the propriety algorithms for evidence of bias, discrimination, or breaches in security. Among those researchers? GRI Faculty Affiliate, Alan Mislove and his collaborator Christo Wilson, two faculty members in Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences, were part of a lawsuit that aimed to make such a change to the federal statutes. For Mislove and Wilson, the change represents the end of a long legal battle—and the beginning of a new challenge.
“This is a big step in the right direction for online research,” says Mislove, “but the problem still isn’t completely solved as there is still a lot more work to do to better protect online researchers.”
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