Matthew Keys, the former Reuters journalist who was convicted last year for aiding the hacker group Anonymous, was sentenced to 24 months in prison today. Keys faced up to a possible 25 years for three counts of hacking. His conviction has become yet another high-profile example of the often eager and heavy-handed use of dated federal laws used to turn online crimes from misdemeanors into felonies. Following his sentence, Keys will be on supervised release and he is set to surrender on June 15th.
Keys was found guilty in October 2015 for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by providing website login credentials to The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Media-owned newspaper. At one point, Keys worked for a companion Tribune property, KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, California, which gave him possession of the login information to the joint content management system. Anonymous members altered one story on the LA Times' website as a result. Keys later went on to work for Reuters, but was fired from his position as social media editor there after charges were first filed in March 2013.
Keys was found guilty of helping Anonymous hack the Los Angeles Times' website
In a Medium post published this morning, Keys said he is committed to journalism no matter what the outcome. "Whatever happens today, I hope I’m able to continue serving the public with important stories of interest," he wrote. "Journalism is all I’m good at, and I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do if I’m not able to do it anymore." He also said the liberal use of the CFAA against those convicted of hacking continues to be a pressing issue and that he hopes it can be reformed in the future:
I am innocent, and I did not ask for this fight. Nonetheless, I hope that our combined efforts help bring about positive change to rules and regulations that govern our online conduct. As I’ve previously wrote about, nobody should face terrorism charges for passing a Netflix username and password. But under today’s law, prosecutors can use their discretion to bring those exact charges against people — including journalists — whenever they see fit. Prosecutors did so in this case. Until the law catches up with the times, there’s no doubt that prosecutors will do it again.
Keys, writing on Twitter after the sentencing, says he and his legal team plan on appealing. "When we do appeal, we're not only going to work to reverse the conviction, but try to change this absurd computer law, as best we can," he wrote.