California bans malicious online impersonation

Maliciously impersonating someone on Facebook or Twitter will soon be illegal in California

A new law makes it illegal in California to maliciously impersonate someone online.

On Monday California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law, which makes it a misdemeanor in the state to impersonate someone online for "purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person."

The bill's author, State Senator Joe Simitian, said that Senate Bill 1411 brings California's impersonation laws into the 21st century by addressing "the dark side of the social networking revolution."

"Pretending to be someone else online takes no more Web savvy than posting comments on a Web forum under that person's name," said Simitian, in a statement. "When it's done to cause harm, folks need a law on the books they can turn to."

The law is designed to crack down on cyber-bullying and would apply to cases like that of Elizabeth Thrasher, who was charged last year withposting a 17-year-old girl's photo, e-mail and mobile number to a Craigslist adult forum, following an argument.

The law is not designed to prohibit parody or satire, but some worry that it could have a chilling effect nevertheless.

"It could be used to put the lid on free speech," said Mike Bonanno a member of the Yes Men, a group that has made a career out of parodying powerful corporations. "Our impersonations are revealed almost immediately after we do them -- there is a net gain of information for the public: it is anything but fraud. But those facts may not stop corporations and their political cronies from using this law to attack activists who are truly exercising free speech," he wrote in an e-mail.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn't like the law either. Like Bonanno, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry worries that it could give corporations and public officials a new way to sue their critics into silence. "We're disappointed that the Governor decided to sign this bill, given that it is likely to be used to squelch political speech," she said via e-mail.

The law lets victims seek damages in civil court. Perpetrators can also face criminal charges -- up to a US$1,000 fine and a year's imprisonment. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Joe SimitiansecurityCorynne McSherrylegaltwitterinternetprivacycybercrimeFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?