Crime

Hacker Given Prison Term For Replacing Racist, Homophobic Slurs On Social Media With Silly Statements

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A northern Kentucky man was sentenced to jail time after he hacked into accounts on social media and replaced conservative, racist or homophobic posts with silly statements.

Michael Pullen, 38, claims he was targetting offensive content and changing user statements to “funny” things like, “I’m super fancy. Why don’t you call me fancy pants?”

The father of two from Dry Ridge was sentenced to five months in prison.

His hacking began on SodaHead.com. He said it stemmed from boredom after he was laid off from his job in 2009. At first, Pullen claims he would argue with other users over history and politics.

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“They would propagate misconceptions about the Civil War,” Pullen told the Kentucky Enquirer. “I would go in there and poke holes in their arguments.”

Once he figured out how to exploit a bug in the site’s software, he started hacking accounts.

“They were saying these devious, dastardly things like, ‘I can’t wait for the second Civil War so I can shoot me a liberal,’” Pullen said.

He claims the hacking only took place for two weeks. The Secret Service realized what Pullen was doing and federal agents arrested him in his home in March 2010.

Later convicted of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), Pullen was sentenced to attend federal work camp in Ashland on Oct. 21. He was also given two years probation.

Internet law expert Eric Goldman is an outspoken critic of the CFAA, but believes it was properly applied in Pullen’s case.

“This is a fairly straightforward application of the law,” said Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and director of the High Tech Law Institute in Silicon Valley. “We might want some type of restriction against accessing someone’s private space on a computer — even if it is done as a prank.”

Pullen’s public defender said incarcerating his client is a waste of taxpayer money.

“If what they wanted to do was to convince my client to never, never do it again ... and punish him, they could have just as easily suspended his driver’s license for a year and fined him $1,000,” said attorney Dennic C. Alerding.

The former director of technical operations at SodaHead.com, Arthur Clements, testified last month that Pullen’s actions could have “killed” their business.

“It was all just meant to be funny,” Pullen said. “I never meant to hurt, in any way, anybody. It was just kind of tweaking these folks — popping their balloons, so to speak.”

Sources: Kentucky Enquirer, Raw Story