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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 intellitech ( 1912116 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:02AM (#34737240)

    "The courts will likely sort it out."

    You're kidding, right? In a country plagued with a broken patent system, a congress with an infant's knowledge of technology, and a government run by two-faced politicians, it would be a miracle if this doesn't add to the current issues regarding free speech online.

  • Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:07AM (#34737264)

    "There has to be intent to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud another person"

    I'm betting most posters in this thread are going to skip over this phrase completely, and raise the "free speech no matter what" flag.

    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?

  • What about (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:32AM (#34737378)

    The FBI agents impersonating 13 yr old girls looking for sex, or for that matter NBC's To Catch a predator crew. It would be nice to see them punished...

  • Re:What about (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:09PM (#34737962)

    The FBI agents impersonating 13 yr old girls looking for sex

    1. It is only "impersonating" if the person exists, not if it is a non-existent person.
    2. It is not "impersonating" if you write on behalf of another person, which the FBI does if this is a real person.
    3. Going to jail for a crime that you committed does not count as "harm".

    The FBI would obviously be in trouble if they used the identity of a real 13 year old girl without the parents' consent.

  • by decoy256 ( 1335427 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:41PM (#34738208)


    It's already illegal to beat someone up. But then we had to go and make special laws that make it "extra bad" if the victim was part of some special minority group (race, sexual orientation, religion, etc...)? If the assault was already a crime, then what we are criminalizing is the person's thoughts. That sounds like dangerous ground to me.

    Don't get me wrong, I am opposed to people beating up others because they belong to some minority group, but I'm opposed to anyone beating anyone up for any reason. Unless it's a fair fight and no one is forced into it (i.e. duels). But that's another subject.

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @02:12PM (#34738442)
    Who can you enforce this against? A California resident using a California server? A California resident using an out of state server. A non-California resident using a California server? A non-California resident using a California server to defraud a California resident? The same with a non-California server? A non-everything? Will California become the East Texas of Internet Defrauding Tourism (well, hey, they need to do something to improve their economy)?

    Clearly this is why politicians shouldn't be making laws regarding technology.
  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @02:45PM (#34738666) Homepage Journal

    You've pointed out what wrong with most of the "new" laws. I know your example is well dated, but...

        Consider the new slew of laws regarding texting while driving.

        It's illegal to drive while distracted. It has been for an awful long time. If that distraction involved in injury or death, it's even more so.

        Then quite a while ago, they had to spell out that you could drive while watching TV. Any vehicle mounted TV couldn't be in view of the driver. Recently, they started with cell phones. You can't text while driving. You can't read your mail while driving. You can't hold your phone to your ear. Oddly enough, you can still hold in depth conversations if you go buy a earpiece. I don't quite get that one. I've seen plenty of folks in other real-world situations where you can't make them see the reality of their physical situation because they are on the phone. It wasn't necessary to add any of those laws to the books, other than it made government officials look productive.

        So when will they make the laws saying it's illegal to eat, shave your legs, put on makeup, and scream at the kids in the back seat while driving? Ok, I've never seen them all at once, but I've seen various combination of those with cars driving erratically.

        Great, so now it's illegal to impersonate someone else online. I expect they'll have to extend that to say you can't talk on a forum with a name that someone else uses. I guess I'm SOL, my online name matches dozens of other people. Worse, my real name matches thousands of other people in the US, and who knows how many world wide. If we just look in the scope of the Entertainment industry, my name matches about a dozen actors, directors, producers, and other production crew members. Hell, IMDB finds JW Smythe [imdb.com] possibly matching 19 people, none of which are me. I swear, they're not me. "Smythe" even shows results in iafd.com. Again, not me.

        No fucking wonder the law books are so bloated. In the quest for lawmakers to feel self important, they will keep adding laws to the books to continually restate other laws. It doesn't just bloat lawbooks, but these laws frequently carry different punishments for the same crime. Hmm, you had a phone, and you were driving carelessly, and screaming at the kids in the back seat, but your bumper sticker that says "Meet.Me.For.Cheap.Sex.com" has the name "Slut Monkey" on it. That's the stage name of someone else.

        (oddly enough, I couldn't find a reference to "Slut Monkey" being either a stage name nor movie title. Production will start tomorrow. All female applicants should send their resume with measurements, nude photos, acts their willing to perform, and current STD test results.)

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.