If you couldn’t tell from this lead-in picture, this post and the next few posts are going to be chock-full of spoilers about the TV show Mr. Robot. Yes you should watch it before you read this, and no don’t just read the episode synopsis on wikipedia because it is a really good show.
Mr. Robot is a great show because it has that kind of surreal world creation that feels all too real, especially for those of us dealing with cyber security, law enforcement, mental illness, and multinational corporations. It is not afraid to portray just how far people will go ethically to accomplish their aims, whether it is escaping prison or taking over a country’s entire financial system. And along the way are thousands of allusions to the careful watcher about everything from hacker culture to Leftist politics.
Mr. Robot has received a lot of praise in particular for its portrayal of hacking and programming. Whereas most films and TV shows make hacking whatever is convenient for their plots, Mr. Robot is meticulous in showing the right tech, the right code, the right slang. I of course would not know anything about that as I have definitely never been involved with any hacker groups. Ever. Please don’t look into that too deeply.
But some of my fellow legal nerds may have noticed that Mr. Robot brings up a lot of interesting legal questions, especially as the geopolitical scope of the show has expanded in the second season. So I thought it would be fun and informative to do a few blog posts on these issues to see if the Mr. Robot team was as meticulous with their law as they were with their 1337 speak. And it gives me an excuse to look at and post pictures of Christian Slater.
So in Part 1 I will be writing about the big scheme of Phillip Price which is somewhat unveiled in the last episode of the second season. For those a little confused by the plot, Price essentially leveraged China to make a zero interest loan of two trillion dollars to E-Corp, and then with this money converted into their currency E-coin, it would essentially replaced the United States dollar. Jack, the White House liaison that Price is going through, is distraught at the prospect and says that it is probably unconstitutional. The legality of currency creation, and especially this hypothetical complete privatization of currency, is a fascinating legal issue with fairly new caselaw that is changing every year.
In Part 2 I will be writing about the Python program that Agent Dom and the FBI uses to ensnare Darlene and the other hackers of F-society. During Darlene’s interrogation, Agent Santiago states that under the Patriot Act he considers her an enemy combatant. We will dive into the legality of these law enforcement techniques and others that have arisen in the digital age.
And in Part 3 I will get a little ambitious and assert something of a fan theory. In Episode 9 of Season 2 we learn that the reason why Elliot was in prison was for the hacking of his therapist’s boyfriend and stealing the guy’s $1200 dog, making it a felony. He pleads guilty and is sentenced to 18 months in county. Now Mr. Robot can be seen in this episode yelling at Elliot for pleading guilty, and Elliot seems to be using the arrest as an excuse to try to cut out Mr. Robot once and for all by creating an intensely regimented life for himself in prison. But what if there was another reason that Elliot plead guilty? What if Mr. Robot, knowing Elliot was fed up with him, used a bit of negative psychology to make Elliot do exactly what he wanted? This post will discuss the criminal laws around hacking, e-discovery, and the multiple reasons why people take guilty pleas regardless of whether or not they are actually guilty.