Cyber-cops hold student on Internet snuff threat

THE virtual world of "Internet surfing" has come crashing down to earth with the jailing at theweekend of an American student who published rape and murder fantasies on the Net.

There have been legal clashes in cyberspace before - usually for libel, hacking or fraud. It is the first time that a computer user has been arrested and imprisoned for making threats over the worldwide computer network. The forthcoming trial is expected to send a message that the Net police intend to enforce good behaviour or "netiquette" on the electronic frontier.

The University of Michigan student, Jake A Baker, 20, was jailed on Friday for the interstate transmission of a threat. Described as "a ticking bomb ready to go off" he could receive five years in prison if found guilty.

Mr Baker has admitted posting three sex and murder stories on the Internet last December, in which he described torturing a fellow student with a hot curling iron, then mutilating and sodomising her while she is gagged and tied to a chair.

One of his transmissions read: "Torture is foreplay, rape is romance, snuff (killing) is climax." But Mr Baker protests that they were taken out of context. The stories end with Mr Baker lighting a match to burn her flat - then saying goodbye to her.

"Just thinking about it anymore doesn't do the trick. I need to do it," Mr Baker messaged another Internet user with whom he'd been discussing the plan to rape, torture and murder his fellow student.

The morbid writings were discovered by an Internet user in Moscow who was "surfing" through on-line bulletin boards in early January. He alerted the university and the FBI's newly-formed "Net police" were put on the case.

Mr Baker claims that the violence he depicted in the story stemmed from "stress I was suffering over a student loan", and that the "pseudo-sexual stuff came from raging hormones". He denies making real threats and says he named the female student he had never spoken to "because she was an attractive young woman, and I needed a name for the story I was writing".

The criminal conspiracy charges have alarmed America's free speech lobby, however. "He has published a short story . . . the kind that's probably found on the shelves of adult bookstores. The stupidity on his part is that he named a real person," Howard Simon, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

The trouble authorities are facing is how to control Internet transmissions which are threatening, libellous or fraudulent, without stopping free speech.

The student's mother described his writings as "pure fantasy; the judge must have woken up this morning and thought he was a psychiatrist".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee