The Computer Abuse and Fraud Act (CFAA) is a broad federal law that criminalizes numerous activities related to computers and computer networks. The CFAA is not only a criminal law, but also gives private individuals and corporations the right to sue to recover damages.
The Act forbids anyone from accessing a computer "without authorization." The courts have interpreted this to mean that violating a company's terms of service is equivalent to "accessing that company's computers without authorization." Because the law threatens to burden free expression conduct (such as journalists or researchers using automated web browsing tools), some critics, including free speech advocates have voiced criticism of the CFAA's role in social media censorship.