Facebook, Twitter imposters may be outlaws in Calif.

Legislature OKs bill that would make using another's identity online a misdemeanor

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature on a bill passed by state legislators last month would make it illegal to impersonate someone on Facebook or Twitter there.

Senate Bill 1411 [ download PDF ] would make maliciously impersonating someone else online a misdemeanor. Calif. State Sen. Joe Simitian, who authored the bill, said it focuses on stopping the misuse of e-mail and social networking.

"In the age of the Internet, pretending to be someone else is as easy as using their name to create a new email account," said Simitian, in a recent statement. "When that is done to cause harm, folks need a law on the books they can turn to." In 2009, for example, someone falsely created a Twitter account under the Dalai Lama's [http://blog.twitter.com/2009/02/lesson-in-nothingness.html ] name. However, it was only discovered to be an impersonation and pulled after it had gained 20,000 followers. Professional basketball player Shaquille O'Neal also was impersonated on Twitter in 2009. The bill under consideration in California, though, isn't based solely on the impersonation. The bill specifies that the impersonation must be done with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person. And that, according to Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, could take a lot of the teeth out of this if it becomes a law. "I think a weakness in the California law is the requirement to show intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person," said Olds. "It's damn hard to prove intent and, even if the motivations behind the impersonation aren't malicious, there could still be quite a bit of damage done to the reputation of the person being impersonated." If the part about showing intent was taken out of the bill, it would make for a stronger law, Olds noted. "In my mind, if you impersonate another living or dead person in a substantive way, then you're wrong and by the very act of trying to take on someone else's persona you prove bad intent," he added. "While some may say the law is complete crap, I disagree. I think it's only somewhat crappy, due to the loophole for intent... However, the bill does give victims more ability to sue for compensation, which is a good thing." If the bill passes, California won't be the first state to take this step. New York and Texas have made online impersonation against the law.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags regulationinternetFacebooktwitterWeb 2.0 and Web AppsGov't Legislation/Regulation

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

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?