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When does a journalist become a hacker?

Photo illustration of the Supreme Court building with gavels behind.
Cath Virginia / The Verge | Photos via Getty Images

Some laws operate like hidden trap doors — everyone walks across the trap at one point or another, but only a handful of us actually fall through. For the rich, it’s the law against insider trading; for the rest of us plebs, it’s the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

On Thursday, federal law enforcement arrested journalist Tim Burke and arraigned him in court in handcuffs. Twelve of the 14 charges levied against him in the since-unsealed indictment are under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking statute.

The story begins with Tucker Carlson’s extremely cursed interview of Kanye West in 2022. Most interviews are edited for clarity; in this case, the interview was cut to exclude a rambling, antisemitic rant. That…

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