How dare he point out my error?

By Megan McArdle

This is madness:

If a wingnut uses the Internet to give the Obama campaign a donation in a fake name, with the intent of fooling the website into accepting an invalid contribution, isn't that using interstate communications facilities to defraud under 18 USC 1343?

Here's part of the definition of "fraud" from Black's Law Dictionary:

a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed, which deceives and is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury

Seems like a pretty good fit to me.

It also seems like the only way to expose much wrongdoing or error.  The Obama campaign screwed up massively; it should not be possible to charge something to a credit card without matching the name to the name on the credit card.  Most responsible web processors also require that you provide a fair amount of other information, to ensure that people aren't using stolen cards.  And beyond that, last time I looked it was mandatory to get correct names to ensure that people aren't violating the campaign finance laws.  I don't support those laws, to be sure.  But as long as they are the law, all the campaigns have to abide by them.

Wondering if we can't prosecute the person who exposed the campaign's error smacks of police state tactics.  Yes, I still support Obama, and I have no reason to think that the error was deliberate.  But that doesn't mean that I think the Obama team has a right to have its errors protected from public exposure.

Nor is this quite the same thing as, say, bullying a right-wing militiaman into selling you guns, or talking a teenager into using drugs.  The guy went and saw if it was possible to commit a crime via Obama's website.  It was.  If it had been a corporation rather than a campaign whose shoddy protections were thus exposed, would Kleiman really be urging us to pursue a fraud claim?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/10/how-dare-he-point-out-my-error/4259/