New Law Could Land Online Impersonators in a Lot of Trouble

Illustration for article titled New Law Could Land Online Impersonators in a Lot of Trouble

Online impersonation can be devastating to the victim, even if they're not doing anything too nefarious with with the stolen identity. Now, thieves could face serious charges, even jail time, under a new bill proposed in California.

It's been put to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the new bill landing such identity thieves with a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail, along with the opportunity to sue for compensation.

We all know of Twitter accounts, even Facebook accounts, pretending to be celebrities or other "known" people—even BP!—but if this new law is passed it would give the target a valuable weapon.


Here's hoping the courts can differentiate between a funny parody Twitter account and the act of actually tarnishing someone's reputation. [BBC]

Image Credit: Steven Depolo

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Let me just preface this with the explanation that everything youre about to read is true. I have no desire to fabricate any of this, and it all really happened.

This is not exactly something Im proud of, but in my teenage years I was somewhat of an internet celebrity when it came to social networking. I had one of the top100 myspace accounts as far as friend count is concerned. Its an elite circle of the most ridiculous people youll ever talk to. It was largely due to my ability to take clever photographs and apparently something about the way I look. Because of that, I constantly had people stealing my pictures, and pretending to be me, until eventually I grew tired of it and deleted any internet existence I had.

As stupid as that all sounds, it actually got me into trouble and creepy situations on more than one occasion. The creepiest by far was when a Girl X who lived on the opposite side of the country asked if I knew Girl Y. I knew neither X nor Y, so the conversation continued until she explained. Apparently Girl Y had been talking to me on some social networking site. I had never spoken to Girl Y in my life. According to Girl X it had gotten so bad that Y proceeded to carry her picture around because her and this anonymous faker were "dating." How you can date without meeting is still beyond me. She then told me she couldn't wait to rub it in the girls face the next day in school. I laughed and thought it was all over.

About a week later I got a message from Tom himself. Obviously it was someone else using the shell account that had been known as "the owner" of myspace, because it had already been sold to Newscorp at that point. Anyway, the message was regarding a police investigation into an internet-stalking case and a violent outburst that occurred in school. What a surprise, it was in the city these 2 girls were from.

Girl X had apparently gone to Girl Y and began insulting her. Girl Y did what most teenage girls do, and acted irrationally. She took a swing at the girl, and after a few blows, Girl X was taken to the hospital for head trauma.

After getting down to the reason why, they approached myspace, who then gave them access to the girls account because they found out that the guy she was talking to was 18 and she was only 14. Myspace then asked me for real contact information and within the hour I received a call from a police department in Arizona. They asked me a few questions about these girls, whether I knew them, whether I was involved and I explained my side of the story. It almost got to the point where they were going to fly me out to Arizona for a trial in which Id have to defend my identity against an unknown person in the trial.

Luckily it all fizzled out. The cops were able to find the source of the fake profile after looking into the shell email he used to create it. It was some kid at her school that thought he could convince her to send him nude pictures if he looked like me. Apparently he used several other fake profiles to attempt the same thing. Not sure whatever happened to the kid but Im sure it wasnt good.

To this day I have a hard time believing that all of this really happened. The even funnier thing is, Im not even that attractive.