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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This is so stupendously stupid!

I was going to forego my regular posting today, then I ran across this item at MSNBC News and started steaming. Julie Amero, a substitute teacher at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn. was convicted last month of exposing her seventh-grade class to pornography on a classroom computer. The incident happened in October 2004 when a couple of students brought up a site on hair and Ms. Amero shooed them away from the computer. Ms. Amero had little knowledge of computers or how a seemingly innocent site could suddenly redirect to a porn site. When she tried to exit out of the screen, more screens kept popping up in an endless loop.

Any of us with any substantial internet experience have probably run into this frustrating adware trap. It happened to me on my last job after I did a Google search and clicked on a link that definitely didn't indicate the context. As soon as I saw this enormous booty facing me on the screen, I exited out of it, only to have more and more booties pop up. And then the freaking thing made itself my home page and at that time, I didn't know how to get my default page back. I almost cried at the thought of having to call the IT department and explain why there was a naked lady on my screen. Luckily, I figured out how to get my default page back before I had to make the call and possibly face censure due to stringent corporate policies against computer porn.

So I have nothing but sympathy for this teacher who found herself in a predicatment of having a seemingly innocent site suddenly redirect to a porn page with images popping up as fast as she could get rid of them. With strict orders from administration not to cut off the computer, Ms. Amero tried to keep her students from looking at the content. But this effort wasn't good enough for prosecutors, who charged her with exposing minors to pornography. She was convicted after a three-day trial and now may face up to forty years in prison. Prosecutors argued that she deliberately brought up the site (now how many people are stupid enough to do this in front a full class where anyone can report back to the principal?). One juror wondered why she didn't simply throw a coat over the screen. He was offended that she didn't. So it seems Ms. Amero was convicted based on the prudery of the court than any true criminality on her part. To the oversensitive prosecution office and the jurors, the mere thought of those precious, innocent seventh graders even getting one peek of a bare ass has turned sympathy away from a woman who until this conviction was just a small-town substitute teacher. (Not to be cynical, I bet you these seventh graders have seen more on their own unchaperoned computer surfing and TV watching than they glimpsed for those few seconds.)

Ms. Amero has become a cause celebre of the tech world. One computer consultant who testified for the defense tried to explain the mechanics of adwares and how the incident Ms. Amero described could indeed happen, but the prosecution just didn't want to hear it. What is so blatantly, stupendously stupid is that the prosecution didn't even check the computer for adware or spyware. One of Amero's defenders, Alex Eckelberry, president of a software company, wrote in a local paper, that this was a blunder "akin to not checking for fingerprints at a crime scene."

The school principal even admitted that the firewall wasn't working due to an unpaid bill, yet tries to point a finger by claiming "we've never had a problem with pop-ups before" and that Amero was the only teacher ever to report such an incident. Because, of course, since no one has ever reported such a thing happening before, then Amero must be lying, right?

Amero is due to be sentenced March 2. Hopefully, the prosecution office will back off and not ask for the full forty years. But even if they give her a lenient sentence, it's a travesty that she has to spend a moment in prison for something that might have happened to any innocent internet user.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 2/13/2007 05:41:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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