the powerfully stupid

No, I’m not talking about Dumbya this time.
I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about this before, but I just followed a link from Jeneane’s post dealing with education and found out about Julie Amero, the seventh grade substitute teacher in Connecticut who is facing 40 years in prison after pornographic popup ads came up on her computer screen during a class in 2004.
Karoli at Odd Time Signatures explains the case, including the following:

When I first read about this story, Amero was on trial. I assumed that the defense would show that the ads were clearly the result of a spyware/adware infection and she would be acquitted. My shock went deep (along with just about everyone with an ounce of understanding about how malware works) when she was convicted of multiple counts of exposing children to pornography. My outrage is just as keen, knowing that she was not permitted to introduce evidence of a malware attack because the defense failed to do so at the pretrial phase.

Amero and her husband are broke. A sad result of these specious accusations and mockery of a trial: Amero was 4 months pregnant when she was arrested, and lost her baby as a result of the stress. A miscarriage of justice, truly.

Karoli’s post links to a site that quotes the following from an article published in the New York Times:

Brian Livingston, editorial director of Windows Secrets, an electronic newsletter about the Microsoft program, said in an interview, “Prosecutors should be chasing the maker of these spyware programs, not hapless teachers who have nothing to do with the images.”

Ms. Amero’s husband, Wes Volle, was emphatic in saying she was clueless about computers and was in over her head once the pop-ups began. Mr. Volle, a graphics designer, accused the school system of sacrificing his wife to deflect attention from its own failure to install effective filters on its computers.

The ignorance that permeates this case is layers deep, and at the bottom is the defense lawyer who obviously didn’t understand the fundamental relevance of how internet technology works and apparently never brought it up at pre-trial. And, for a school administration to be that ignorant of howproblems with internet technology can run rampant is truly a dereliction of duty.
An artcle on alternet.net explains the problem clearly:

Adware, spyware and other infectious software are known hazards to security and privacy — and when lax cybersecurity meets anti-porn hysteria, a mailware infection can even land you in jail. Malicious coders are getting more sophisticated all the time, but law enforcement and the criminal justice system aren’t keeping up. A criminal conviction can hang on the difference between a deliberate mouse click and an involuntary redirect on an infested computer. Too often, even so-called experts can’t tell the difference.

There is a website to help Julie Amero and her husband raise the money that they need for their defense against the kinds of powerful people who are so ignorant about what is perhaps the most significant technological/educational/cultural phenonemon of this generation that their stupidity results in a tragic miscarriage of justice.
I have become used to people I know in real life not knowing much about the Internet and not knowing anything about blogging. But they aren’t lawyers or teachers or school administrators. They join AOL and learn what icons to click to use their email account occasionally. They are, as it’s said, out of the loop, and they don’t care. It’s all just too complicated for them to bother with.
But the people with power to destroy the lives of others because of their ignorance — well, it’s time they start caring and start learning.

One thought on “the powerfully stupid

  1. Thank you for writing about this. It’s truly amazing to me that our courts and justice system could allow something like this to happen. I thought your concluding sentence was powerful — I only hope that it becomes a drumbeat that forces those in power to learn what their decisions mean to those who are not.

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