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
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence