Geeks are up in arms over the Lori Drew verdict. It stretched the meaning of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which outlaws hacking, to also mean any violation of a website's Terms of Service (ToS). (Lori Drew had created an account on MySpace using the pseudonym Josh, which violates their ToS).
The chilling effect of stretching the CFAA is certainly important, but a more basic issue is the way this challenges the "Rule of Law".
One of the foundations of free society as we know it is something called the "Rule of Law". The rule is that law applies equally to everyone without prejudice. The law applies to our leaders just as much as the common man, and the common man won't get lynched by a mob. The rule of law is hostile to both a dictatorship as well as the anarchy of mob rule.
The Lori Drew case is the foulest example of mob rule. A tragedy happened, a teenage girl committed suicide after being "cyberbullied". No law was broken, though. Lori Drew wasn't even the main "bully" - it was her daughter, and daughter's friends. Yet, the mob demanded "justice", so the prosecutors stretched the law in order to haul her into court and lynch her.
Unfortunately, geeks support the concept of mob rule - they just disagree which law was chosen. Geeks regularly violate the ToS of websites. Geeks frequently create accounts under pseudonyms. The understand why using the CFAA to convict Drew was a bad idea. They just wanted a different law to be chosen, one that didn't impact geeks. When the case first hit the press, comments on the geek news site "Slashdot" seemed in general agreement that some means needed to be found to "make that bitch fry".
The disrespect for the rule-of-law stems from our culture. There are many TV shows based on courtroom drama. The "rule of law" is frequently ignored - we don't want the laws applied fairly. We want the laws to be prejudiced toward the protagonist of the show.
I watched "Batman: The Dark Knight" on my last airplane flight. In the movie, Batman tortures the Joker and wiretaps everyone's cellphone in order to combat terrorism. Why is this ok for Batman, but not for George Bush? It's because Batman is our hero, and Bush is not.
Bush himself has damaged the credibility of the rule of law. He arbitrarily labeled American citizens as "enemy combatants" to deny them habeus corpus. He hired/fired Department of Justice lawyers to fulfill political ends. He wants amnesty for telecommunications firms that broke the law. The issue is not that any of these things were bad, the issue is that Bush applied the law arbitrarily.
J.K. Rowlings "Harry Potter" series is a great example of the pop culture disrespect for the rule of law. In her books, Harry Potter and other protagonists commit egregious acts for purely malicious reasons. Yet, because they are "the good guys", they are held to a different standard. Personally, I was rooting for the antagonist (Voldemort).
Geek culture is intensely political, yet they don't seem to have a political philosophy more complex than always rooting for the underdog. All geeks support the EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) for their support of electronic freedoms. Yet, the EFF has no "manifesto" of what those electronic freedoms should be. They support both the idea that "code" is a form of speech that should be free, but also that "code" should be regulated by the government. It all depends upon whether it's the little guy we are talking about or a large corporation. Yet, these are the same thing. I quit my job and started writing code in my apartment ten years ago that has now become a billion dollar business within IBM, a very large corporation. Regulation of that code should not depend upon whether it was just me trying to sell that product, or IBM.
So yes, we should seek clarification of the meaning of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but that should be secondary. Our primary political fight in the Lori Drew case should be against the purely arbitrary application of the law, which offends the very basis of our society.