Perspectives: Jake Baker and Internet Threats

September 1996
by Joan Lowenstein

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First Amendment protagonists are not always the types of people you’d choose to chat with over lunch or a cup of coffee. The cast of characters in federal-court free-speech cases includes anarchists, Ku Klux Klan wizards, teenaged cross-burners, and pornographers.

One such character whose fate has been on the line is a former University of Michigan student named Jake Baker. His case tests the limits of free speech in cyberspace. (Editor’s Note: Baker’s case was scheduled to be argued before a panel of federal appellate judges in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 16. The results were not available at press time.)

Baker’s lawyers say he spent a month in jail last year for a crime that may consist of nothing more than exceptionally bad manners. Detroit’s United States attorney, however, says Baker is a time bomb-so likely to commit a serious crime like rape or murder that he shouldn’t be out on the streets.

FBI agents arrested Baker in February 1995 on charges stemming from a violent, pornographic “fantasy” he posted on the Internet. In a move he now regrets, he used the real name of a student from one of his classes and made her the subject of a gruesome rape and murder scene.

The story appeared on a popular Internet news group called Alternative Sex Stories or “alt.sex.stories” in Internet jargon. More than half a million people log on to alt.sex.stories. It is neither more brutal nor more sexually explicit than the fiction of mainstream writers like Bret Easton Ell…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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