Not even a two-year prison sentence for computer crimes could keep Matthew Keys away from computers.
Convicted in federal court in 2016 of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the journalist was released earlier this month after serving 18 months. Keys’ job while inside? For seven hours a day, Keys refurbished outdated government computers for resale to private contractors.
“The case was serious enough to convict me, only for me to wind up refurbishing computers so the government can make money,” Keys, 31, told BuzzFeed News. “The irony is not lost on me.”
What was lost on Keys, who is living in a halfway house for two months as one of the conditions of his release, was access to the 24/7 social media cycle that has come to dominate US political and cultural life — and through which Keys initially made his name.
“Obama was in office and Twitter only had 140 characters the last time I was free,” Keys wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News. “The fuck happened?”
A federal jury found Keys guilty in 2015, after hearing from prosecutors that he passed login information for the Los Angeles Times’ website to members of the hacking group Anonymous, who briefly altered a news story. (Keys maintains he is innocent of that crime.)
While imprisoned, the former Reuters social media editor — who helped pioneer the always-on, first-with-the-link news junkie kind of Twitter use that is ubiquitous in the Trump age — couldn’t check his preferred platform. He couldn’t tweet when Trump was elected president. He couldn’t tweet when California wildfires threatened his…