FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 12, 2010
For More Information, Contact:
Phil Yost (650) 688-6384
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011
SACRAMENTO – The California Legislature has taken an important step toward protecting victims of online impersonation, or e-personation, by passing Senate Bill 1411, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). The bill would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate another person online, updating California’s outdated impersonation laws to take account of the misuse of e‑mail and social networking. The bill passed unanimously in both the Senate and the Assembly and now goes to the Governor.
“In the age of the Internet,” said Simitian, “pretending to be someone else is as easy as using their name to create a new e-mail account. When that is done to cause harm, folks need a law on the books they can turn to.”
California’s existing impersonation law dates to 1872, and 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.
“Our impersonation laws are long overdue for an update,” said Simitian. “New laws are needed to crack down on this form of harassment.”
Victims may be the person whose identity is assumed or a third person who is being harassed. Typically, they are left without adequate legal protection. In one example, a Missouri woman seeking revenge pretended to be the daughter of her ex-husband’s girlfriend on an adult dating site, causing the daughter to receive lewd responses.
Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said his name has been used to send inflammatory e-mails. “I have long believed that bullies are simply cowards that no one has stood up against,” Guardino said. “E-impersonators are just bullies hiding behind technology. Senator Simitian’s bill ensures these bad actors know there is a price to pay, and holds them accountable for their behavior.”
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 an online impersonation of an actual person that is 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 http://www.senatorsimitian.com/legislation.