By Brendan Sasso - 03/14/13 09:28 PM EDT
The Justice Department on Thursday accused Matthew Keys, deputy social media editor for Reuters, of conspiring to help members of the hacker group "Anonymous" deface the Los Angeles Times website in 2010.
Keys worked for Sacramento-based TV station KTXL FOX 40, which is owned by the Tribune Company, as a web producer until October 2010.
According to the indictment, in December 2010, Keys went on an Internet chat room and identified himself as a former Tribune Company employee. He provided members of Anonymous with a login credential and password to the Tribune Company server and encouraged them to disrupt sites, prosecutors claim.
One of the hackers allegedly used the credentials to make changes to the website of the Los Angeles Times, which is also owned by the Tribune Company. The hacker changed a news story headline to read, "Pressure builds on House to elect CHIPPY 1337," among other changes, according to the indictment.
When Keys learned that the hacker had disrupted the site, he allegedly responded "nice."
If convicted, Keys faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 for each of three counts.
Keys joined Reuters in 2012, according to his Google Plus profile.
Some lawmakers and activists have accused the Justice Department of seeking excessive penalties in their case against Aaron Swartz, an Internet activst who committed suicide earlier this year. Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison for allegedly breaking into a university computer network and downloading millions of academic articles from a subscription service.
Critics argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is vague and allows for overly harsh penalties of minor computer infractions.
But House lawmakers showed little interest in relaxing computer crime punishments at a hearing on Wednesday.
—Updated at 6:10 p.m.