Cyberpunk Review » Beware Techophobes - Be Assimilated or Go to Jail!

February 20, 2007

Beware Techophobes - Be Assimilated or Go to Jail!

Nirvana Screencap


In a a few short decades, we’ve gone from a normal industrialized society that supported people of all technology comforts to a society where people in the most essential of societal jobs need to be fluent in computers just to stay out of jail. Urshanabi brings us this article in the Techy News Picks of the Day thread where Julie Amero, a substitute teacher from the backwards-ass town of Norwich, Connecticut was convicted, and could be sentenced for up to 40 years for the misfortune of having spamware on her classroom computer. I say backwards-ass because any town that could find 12 jurors that would blame this action on a technophobe are as computer illiterate as Julie Amero. The story is as follows:


Julie Amero was convicted of four counts of ‘risking injury to a child’ and will face up to forty years in prison when she is sentenced in March. The conviction was handed down in the Norwich Superior Court. The story behind this and the facts used to convict her have many in the IT world gaping in shock.

The story behind the case starts in 2004. Amero was using a computer in a seventh grade class to email her husband. Before she sent the email, she left to use the restroom and came back into the classroom, finding students watching a hairstyle ad on the PC. This is where the trouble starts. Attempting to close the pop-up ad for the hairstyle promotion she was suddenly bombarded with an endless stream of pop-up ads for pornography related services and websites.

The computer and the pop-up ads continued to run all day long according to court reports and news interviews. Amero, a self-described ‘technophobe’ (someone who is afraid of or does not know how to use current technology) did not attempt to turn off the computer, or unplug it for two reasons. The first, she claims was because she did not know how to turn off the computer. The second is she was trained never to touch anything in another teacher’s classroom. She had only asked to send and email, and in her opinion, disabling the computer or unplugging it would have not been within the scope of what she was allowed to do.

She attempted to seek help, leaving the classroom to head to the teachers lounge. Later, because she failed to close and lock the classroom when she went to the lounge, this was added as proof of her irresponsible actions. In all, four children were exposed to the ads and images. During the trial, it was suggested that she spent too much time looking at the internet and that she intentionally surfed pornographic websites. If she is a ‘technophobe’ as claimed, it is likely sending email, is the only thing she knows how to do on a computer. Anything else and she would shy away from it. Her husband also confirmed that she is a ‘technophobe’ both at trial and in interviews.


The implications to society from this case are clear - technophobes are not only being left behind, they’re now considered to be criminally negligible. Academic skills such as a degree in education are now secondary to information proficiency. Forget figuring out how to program your VCR, if you don’t know the basics of computer pitfalls, your competence as a professional is shot. Even some letters to the local backwards-ass newspaper, the Norwich Bulletin, back this sentiment up.


If Amero had better competency, she would have unplugged the computer or covered it up until someone who knew how to remove the pop-ups could solve the problem.

If the school district and principal knew how to use the technology, they would have stood by their teacher.

The solution here is simple. Dismiss the criminal counts. Fire Amero from her job for her incompetent handling of the situation.


Julie Amero’s beleaguered husband describes this situation in 1984 terms:


Welcome to 2004
George Orwell was a little off, but not by much. Technology has engulfed the average American at an alarming rate. To think that it is possible for the average layperson to understand all the ins and outs of how a computer works is just not reasonable. What’s worse, our employer’s don’t know any more than we do, and they rely on us to identify problems when they happen. If you are lucky, your employer will know what to do when a crisis happens with your system. If not you’ll end up like Julie arrested, ridiculed, demeaned and left with useless teacher’s degree in special education.


Fragile Machine Screencap


We can all mock Julie for being afraid to turn off the computer because she was “never told” she was allowed to do this, but most of us who have worked with technophobes know the drill - technophobes take as few actions as possible with the computer for fear of breaking something. When the inevitable breakdown occurs, their worst fears are realized and they tend to panic. We see this when new versions of office applications come out - technophobes fumble around trying to figure out how to now do what they used to do in the last version, while computer literate folk seek out all the new features. Worse, we all see this as a generational issue - that older folk are in danger of becoming irrelevant while the younger generation intuitively adapts to the new technology. But is this really so? How will today’s 30 something do with technology coming out 20 years from now?


Parasite Dolls Screencap


So what are we left with? Clearly the case against Julie Amero is horribly flawed and will probably be overturned on appeal once it leaves the confines of Luddite-land, CT. But the larger point remains - the level of competence in information proficiency that people need in order to succeed in today’s world is far greater than it was 10 years ago. We have become a networked society. Internet addiction is becoming the norm among a huge percentage of the population. And the trend is clear - in ten years from now, the amount of knowledge needed to survive will be significantly greater than today. Will the scam artists be gone then? What about the future equivalent of spyware? Where then will technophobes like Julie be? The schism in society between those who “get it” and those who are technologically clueless will only get worse.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.


February 20, 2007

Illusive Mind said:


Forgetting the ridiculous technophobic aspect of the story, how can exposing seventh graders to some pop up pornography carry a sentence up to forty years in prison?

I didn’t know you could [i]risk injury[/i] with images of the naked form.

And in this day an age, computer administrators are responsible for keeping the firewalls, filters, anti-spyware, anti-virus programs up to date, of which there were none. Especially in schools that usually have Beijing type ‘protection’.

I hope to god this conviction is overturned.

Vesper said:

That’s one steaming pile of BS :) Damn, poor woman, I think she should be rescued from jurors like that by some valiant knight(s). Honestly, someone should get some GROWN-UPS to handle such affairs up there (I mean by that the way this matter is handled legally).

Sad-funny news, indeed. If only I haven’t read a while before that Russia’s going to point its nukes at Poland for hosting the US rocket shield. Ugh.

Urshanabi said:

The trouble with the jurors is that they were fed a load of crap by the prosecution. It is possible that had the computer expert been allowed to testify,they would have returned a more learned ruling. I blame her lawyers for not understanding the issues of the case and the procedures for bringing the computer expert’s testimony. Of course, the real blame for this is the stupidly written law that sends innocent people to prison. Any law that jails someone for something that they did not intend to do or something they should not reasonably have expected to happen as a result of their action should not be written.

But the fact is that the law has provided hackers with a weapon, should they wish to exploit it. Planting pornography in someone’s computer is a great way to cause them grief. The real irony, though, is that this new threat is an artificial situation created by legislators that think it’s okay to send people to jail for so-called crimes that do not require intent.

The higher echelons of the US government think it’s okay to send people to jail for all sorts of wonderful reasons.

An Australian citizen currently held without charge at Guantanamo Bay (for five years thus far) is facing the charge of ‘attempted murder’. Is there any evidence he tried to kill ANYONE, well no. But had he gotten the opportunity we’re sure he would’ve killed people, because he had all this training…

We’re supposed to imprison people for things they’ve done (like trying to kill people) not things that would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, might’ve, maybe would have done. Minority Report, here we come.

February 21, 2007

Mr. Roboto said:

What I’d like to know is: Did anybody interrogate the children? That whole class must have known more about computers than Miss-educated. Even the dumbest kid in class must know about the net and its dangers. I bet they deliberately surfed porn to get that garbage on the laptop and the teacher in trouble.


SFAM said:

Hi Mr. Roboto, they definitely interviewed the children. This is how they found out that some saw naughty private parts. Also, as she was a substitute teacher, I’m guessing this wasn’t really her room.

March 8, 2007

state-v-amero said:

They did interview the children AFTER the school principal went through 60 kids and schooled them on what to say. It came out in the trial that at least one of the kids written statements was not in their own handwriting. Those that weren’t going along for the ride, should certainly have been scared into saying anything against the substitute.

btw. Two couldn’t identify her in the courtroom!!

Mike in Austin

March 27, 2007

kabababrubarta said:

Good site! kabababrubarta

March 29, 2007

Kalafan said:

Compared to the usual drang I read in the various newspapers, both printed and online, this story is a good laugh, although I’m by no means dumping on the teacher. The whole concept of 40 years in prison because you failed to keep the school computers free of junk that is known to infect practically EVERY PC running Windows and an Internet connection is just absurdly funny for some reason.

September 15, 2007

kitty_tc said:

Can we start throwing the paranoid anti-sex hyperchristians into prison instead for the very real psychological harm that is caused to children when they zealously program them against their natural sex drives? Because if teaching them their bodies are evil, their instincts corrupt, and that they will be burned forever for the crime of being human instead of acting like a soulless “spirit creature” isn’t harmful, I don’t know what is.

“The flesh is sinful, the spirit divine”… condemn life, worship death. “Culture of life” my ass.

September 10, 2009

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