EU cybercrime code could punish online demonstrations

Tuesday, 4 March 2003, 12:06 PM EST

Legal experts have voiced their concern about new European Union cybercrime rules approved by the 15 national justice ministers last Friday, because they say the rules don't differentiate between a real criminal and political protesters expressing their views by e-mail.

Last Wednesday protesters against a possible U.S. war against Iraq barraged the White House and U.S. Senate offices with tens of thousands of messages by phone, fax and e-mail, as part of what was billed as the first-ever "virtual protest march."

The 15 European ministers signed up to a code on cybercrime that makes no legal distinction between an online protester and the terrorists, virus merchants and hackers the code is designed to trap, according to legal practitioners and academics.

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