Celebrity parodies are pretty hilarious. Mostly.
But what would you do if someone created a mean-spirited Twitter parody pretending to be you and posted all kinds of professionally damaging tweets? You could go through a lengthy court battle and would likely prevail in the end, but that’s pretty harassing in itself.
Fear not though, cyber-victim: there’s a bit of legislation pending in Arizona that seeks to make the prosecution process a whole lot easier – and the penalties steeper.
Some worry that ALL Twitter parodies will be jeopardy, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case.
First Coast News reports that Republican State Rep. Michelle Ugenti is proposing legislation to make online impersonation a crime.
House Bill 2004, if it becomes law, would make it a felony to use another person’s name without permission to create a Web page intended to “harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten.” It would be a misdemeanor to send an email or text message that appears to come from another person and is intended to harm or defraud.
If you’ve ever had a hateful Facebook page or Twitter made about you, you’re likely looking forward to this bill becoming a law, but not everyone is pleased. First Amendment groups worry that this law “could penalize individuals who create parody accounts on sites like Facebook or Twitter.”
“The problem with this, and other online impersonation bills, is the potential that they could be used to go after parody or social commentary activities,” senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation Kurt Opsahl said to First Coast News via email. “While this bill is written to limit ‘intent to harm,’ if that is construed broadly, there could be First Amendment problems.”
But as American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona public policy director Anjali Abraham said, “Any time you try to make law or policy that implicates First Amendment rights, you have to be especially careful in the wording.”
So why assume it won’t be carefully worded? Seems Ugenti is well aware of the issue and “is confident her bill would not affect parody sites and is not intended to do so.” And it could also help victims of identity theft.
“The bill has a high standard,” she said. “It’s the impersonation without the individual’s consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate and threaten.”
But what do you think of this? Good idea or slippery slope?
(Frightened clown image from Shutterstock)