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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  
June 8, 2010

For More Information, Contact:

Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – The California State Senate took a step last week toward protecting victims of online impersonation by passing Senate Bill 1411, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).  The bill would update California’s antiquated impersonation laws for the era of e‑mail and social networking, and make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate another person online.

“The Internet makes many things easier,” said Simitian. “One of those, unfortunately, is pretending to be someone else. When that happens with the intent of causing harm, folks need a law on the books they can turn to.”

Online impersonation requires no special computer skills. In one example, a Missouri woman seeking revenge pretended to be the daughter of her ex-husband’s girlfriend on an adult dating forum, causing the daughter to receive lewd responses.

California’s existing impersonation law was written in 1872, and does not adequately address 21st century technology. It refers to signing “any written instrument” or causing someone to become liable to prosecution or for payment of a debt. With the dramatic expansion of online communication, abuses have also proliferated. Victims are typically left without adequate legal protection.

“We must balance the incredible benefits of technology with the privacy protections we all deserve and expect,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “I personally support Senator Simitian’s SB 1411 after experiencing the pain of family and friends who have been victims of online impersonation.  Such inappropriate behavior must be stopped.”

“Our impersonation laws are long overdue for an update,” said Simitian. “New laws are needed to crack down on this form of harassment.”

SB 1411 would make it a misdemeanor to impersonate another person through the Internet or other electronic means with criminal intent to harm,  intimidate, threaten, or defraud. Only impersonations that are credible and done without consent would fall under the law. The bill includes these conditions to protect free speech.

The penalties for online impersonation would be similar to those already on the books for other forms of impersonation – up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to one year in jail. The bill would also allow victims of online impersonation to pursue compensation in civil court.

Other states, including New York and Texas, have recently updated their statutes to prohibit online false impersonation.

For more information on SB 1411, visit