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Crime The Courts The Internet Your Rights Online

Online Impersonations Now Illegal In California 217

theodp writes "TechCrunch's Michael Arrington reports that a California bill criminalizing online impersonations went into effect on January 1st. 'There has to be intent to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud another person — not necessarily the person you are impersonating,' explains Arrington. 'Free speech issues, including satire and parody, aren't addressed in the text of the bill. The courts will likely sort it out.' So, Fake Steve Jobs, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?'"
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Online Impersonations Now Illegal In California

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  • by cloakedpegasus ( 1761746 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:57AM (#34737218)
    Of course its meant to keep the peasants in line. Like this bill was meant to protect me, psh.
  • Only a fool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Low Ranked Craig ( 1327799 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:59AM (#34737226)
    Would publish their full name, real address, data of birth, etc on a social media site, but on some sites that info is mandatory. I wonder how much the law was influenced by companies that collect user info as part of their business? Accurate info is, I would assume, more valuable than the crap I put in my profiles...
  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:24AM (#34737332)
    Just because it's known to be satire doesn't mean that you're not going to be found to be harming somebody. Which is the whole reason this is such a serious violation of the 1st amendment. Fraud and harm aren't always obvious or in the power of the individual doing whatever to control. Sure this could be used in cases where the person has really defrauded somebody or caused obvious harm, but without addressing parody and legitimate reasons for impersonation, I see no reason to be so optimistic. CA government is pretty fucked up.
  • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:28AM (#34737356)

    But on the other hand, if the impersonation is done with intent to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud, why can't we just prosecute people for fraud, criminal intimidation, or whatnot?

    I don't get it. All the time these slashdotters moan and moan about how the law and how judges don't understand the Internet. And here we have a law that comes from understanding the Internet, and that that the Internet has opened new ways that didn't exist before to harm others, and people complain again. Is it because it threatens some slash=dotters favorite phantasies about getting others into trouble by doing illegal things while pretending to be them?

    When we have laws that threaten people with punishment for certain actions, there are multiple reasons for these laws: The most important are punishment, and deterrent by inducing fear of punishment. But another reason is to state clearly what is acceptable and what is not. In this case, the law makes clear that such impersonation is not some harmless bit of fun, or a harmless prank, but a crime.

    And you didn't read this properly, obviously. What is punishable is impersonation with _intent_ to harm. In other words, the impersonation is punishable even when the intent to harm failed. Say you impersonate a husband sending e-mails to a non-existing lover to split up his marriage. This can now be punished, even if you didn't succeed in your goal. The impersonation is also punishable if the intend to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud succeeded, but only to a degree where the harm, intimidation, threatening or defrauding itself wouldn't lead to punishment.

  • by Damon Tog ( 245418 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:30AM (#34737368)

    Isn't this already covered by existing laws against fraud? Do we need a separate law for each possible variation of fraud? Are they sure they don't need a law that prohibits impersonation over telegram cables or by using smoke signals?

    Abe Vigoda

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:44AM (#34737438)

    I'm pretty sure fraud and impersonation were illegal before this. This new law, like most laws with the word "online" attached to them, is just a redundant addition to already existing regulations. So the "peasants" have less to do with it than idle legislatures trying to justify their existence, or the failure to realize that the magic box with the TV and typewriter attached doesn't require a whole new set of laws to govern it.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:59AM (#34737514) Homepage Journal

    Just because it's known to be satire doesn't mean that you're not going to be found to be harming somebody.

    It's not whether you do harm, but whether you had intent to harm when you pretended to be something you aren't. This is already illegal, and it's called fraud. This is just making what is already illegal clearly illegal, perhaps even more illegal. It's just so that they can add more counts when they drag someone into court, basically.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:09PM (#34737560)

    Most new laws are redundant additions to existing laws. The overlap is entirely deliberate.

    This law is not about money regardless of the 'defraud' part. This law will be used to stop criticism and documentaries that show the rich and powerful in a bad light.

    Its like using a shotgun instead of a pistol. You have half a dozen ways to stop someone doing something instead of just one.

  • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joebagodonuts ( 561066 ) <cmkrnl@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:33PM (#34737686) Homepage Journal

    Maybe it comes from a desire to have legislators leave the internet alone.

    No, really. Look legislators, I know you mean well. But often when you get involved trying to help, you make matters worse.

    Take school bullies. When I was growing up, you let the bully get away with it till you got fed up, you confronted it and the bully went looking for a less painful target. If I got in trouble, so be it. I was fed up. It was a critical event in my development. Today, with our "zero-tolerance" policies and the stupid mantra of "let the authorities handle it", we get things like this. All the while ignoring the possibility that we are at this point because we refuse to let kids learn how to deal with bullying. Unintended consequence

    If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail; legislation is the only thing they have in their toolbox. Hysterical "news" reporting convinces them something must be done! So, because of a small number of jackasses, we now have a "law of the land" that affects many.

    The reason I'm opposed is I don't believe it has much to do with trying to address a real problem. It has more to do with addressing a perceived problem, and it does so in a most ham-handed, inefficient, likely-to-fail manner. All so the legislators can be seen to be "doing something" - and get re-elected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:34PM (#34737694)

    *If* the summary is correct, then the law is about "impersonations" *not* fraud, as in stealing your money and assets.

    There are many good reasons for this law and why I should not state that I am Bill Gates or Joe Shmoe. This law address loophole of cyber-bullying where someone will maliciously impersonate another and there is no law against it. See the case where a kid commited suicide because of the cunt, Lori Drew.


    So if you want to remain anonymous, write anonymous. If you want to have your real name on posts, put your real name or even your pseudonym. But you have no right to take someone else's name for any purpose. That is what this law addresses and it's about time.

  • by Zumbs ( 1241138 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @04:14PM (#34739220) Homepage

    Ever hear of someone being charged with a hate crime for hitting a white person? I know I haven't but you can't tell me that crime has never happened. What about for hitting a Christian? Or someone who is heterosexual?

    Let me hazard a guess: You live in a country dominated by white Christian heterosexuals?

    The harsher punishments are to some extent there to discourage attacks on others because of their skin color, religion, sexuality and/or political opinions. In a free and open society it is reasonable to punish these attacks harsher, as attacks on people due to these features is also in effect an attack on their freedom of expression and speech.

    The second argument for the harsher punishments for hate crimes is to protect minorities from oppression from the dominant majority. Yes, this means that white Chrisitan heterosexuals will not get the full protection in a white Christian country, as they already belong to the majority. However in a country where they are the minority, such as India, similar laws could be instituted to protect Christians from haressment.

  • by farnsworth ( 558449 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @04:24PM (#34739272)

    So while you may see hate crime as some sort of "equalizer" others see it for what it is: payback.

    The logic and value of having "hate crimes" on the books may not be immediately obvious, but it does exist. When someone is brutally assaulted because of some inherent property of their being, it has a chilling effect on others. It is traumatizing to people who were unrelated to the event. It is similar to terrorism.

    Compare: 1) a bar brawl that results in a patron getting brutally stabbed to death and 2) a group of KKK members chaining a black man to their truck and dragging him through town.

    Both are brutal, needless murders, but can you really not see that one is far more deplorable and damaging than the other?

    The intent is not to "equalize" anything or to "payback" anything. The intent to categorize crimes that impact a larger number of people as larger crimes.

    You can debate that point if you want, because that is the actual point of having "hate crimes."

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.