CA Bill: Crime to Open False Facebook profile

The actual bill makes it a crime to “credibly impersonate another person on or through an Internet Web site by opening up an email account or a profile on a social networking Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding another person…”  Here is the text.  The bill is now before the governor for his signature.

Definition unclear

“Other electronic means” includes “social networking Internet Website.”  Clearly they are thinking about Facebook, Twitter and the like but “social networking” as a way to define websites is too ambiguous and is likely to get more so.  Why not simply say, opening an account or profile on a public Website?  I think Internet is probably an attempt to define “public” but again is too vague.  Chances are, that people will be able to open account or profiles through apps that aren’t social networking at all and which don’t necessary interact with a website.  The key here to prohibit creation of false identities on the web – regardless of whether they are social networking related or not.

Defrauding is Different than Intimidation

The bill lists the harms it is addressing as “harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding.”  I think the last harm is a different animal than the first three which are aimed to preventing online bullying. Defrauding is more about monetary theft – a way to hoodwink someone into giving money under false pretenses.  Fraud involves a whole different level of evidentiary and intent standard and this law will just confuse the issue.  Better to handle defrauding individuals through identity theft legislation.

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