Middle school vice principal says students who made fun of him on social media guilty under CFAA, RICO

In Matot v. CH, et al, a middle school assistant principal named Adam Matot asked a court to find that two students who'd set up parody social media accounts mocking him had violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and when the court laughed that out the door, asked the court to find that the students had violated the RICO Act and were engaged in organized crime. Thankfully, the court understood that this was raw sewage disguised as legal theory [PDF] ("Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO.") and found for the kids. Here's some trenchant analysis from Venkat Balasubramani:

This is a strange lawsuit brought by high school principal who alleged that defendants (students) created social media accounts using the principal’s name and likeness. Defendants allegedly posted materials, including some which were obscene, that caused his reputation to be diminished.

He brought suit against defendants and their parents, alleging claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and for defamation and negligent supervision.

On a motion to dismiss brought by one of the defendants, the court finds that plaintiff failed to adequately allege a cause of action under the CFAA. Reviewing the CFAA case law, the court says that plaintiff’s cause of action is premised on defendants’ use of protected computers beyond the scope of authorization (i.e., use in a way that “exceeded authorized access”). Finding that Nosal, Brekka, and US v. Drew all frowned upon this as a legal theory (particularly when restrictions are contained in terms of use agreements), the court rejects the claim. In front of the magistrate judge, plaintiff requested leave to add a RICO claim, but the judge rejects this:

Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO.

Talk about the understatement of the century!

Technology & Marketing Law Blog [Venkat Balasubramani/Eric Goldman]

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