Was Facemash illegal or just unethical?

In our second class (May 19th), we are going to re-enact Mark Zuckerberg’s “Ad Board” hearing at Harvard. (Some background: Before he launched Facebook, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerburg created a website called Facemash in the fall of 2003. In brief, Facemash presented the user with two randomly-selected student I.D. photos of women students enrolled in Harvard and then let the user choose which photo was “hotter.” Moreover, Mark’s website quickly went “viral”—in a matter of hours, the site attracted 450 visitors, who had voted on their classmates’ photos at least 22,000 times. You can read more about this fiasco here, via the Harvard Crimson.)

We will thus need several student volunteers for this in-class activity:

Complainant #1 (the role of Leyla Bravo, president of Fuerza Latina, a student organization at Harvard): Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to deliver a compelling argument to the Ad Board. Specifically, from your perspective, why were the actions of the respondent Mark Zuckerberg wrongful? Did Mr Zuckerberg breach any legal duties to the university or to his fellow students?

Complainant #2 (the role of Kevin Davis, Director of Residential Computing): Your mission is to deliver a compelling argument to the Ad Board. Same as above: from your perspective, why were the actions of the respondent Mark Zuckerberg wrongful? Did Mr Zuckerberg breach any legal duties to the university or to his fellow students?

The Respondent (the role of Mark Zuckerberg, alleged hacker): Your mission is to deliver a compelling argument to the Ad Board in your defense. Did you do anything wrong, and if so, what type of punishment, if any, do you deserve?

The Ad Board: The Class as a whole will play the role of the Harvard Administrative Board. After the parties have made their arguments, the class will deliberate in small groups and will vote to determine what punishment, if any, to impose on the respondent, Mark Zuckerberg.

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