Friday, January 25, 2013

New Anti-Online Impersonation Bill May Affect Social Media Parody Accounts

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 5:38 PM

This legislative session, LD 8 Representative Michelle Ugenti of Scottsdale has introduced H.B. 2004, which would introduce laws that would make it a Class 5 Felony for people to make online profiles impersonating other people—though the bill's text, as it stands, doesn't explicitly make it clear whether or not parody accounts are in the clear.

From the text of the bill:

A. A PERSON COMMITS ONLINE IMPERSONATION IF THE PERSON, WITHOUT OBTAINING THE OTHER PERSON'S CONSENT AND WITH THE INTENT TO HARM, DEFRAUD, INTIMIDATE OR THREATEN ANY PERSON, USES THE NAME OR PERSONA OF ANOTHER PERSON TO DO EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. CREATE A WEB PAGE ON A COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE OR OTHER INTERNET WEBSITE.
2. POST OR SEND ONE OR MORE MESSAGES ON OR THROUGH A COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE OR OTHER INTERNET WEBSITE, OTHER THAN ON OR THROUGH AN ELECTRONIC MAIL PROGRAM OR MESSAGE BOARD PROGRAM.

Arizona isn't the first to introduce laws such as this one — 8 other states are either considering or have already enacted one — but it's interesting to note that this one was introduced by a legislator who has a parody account mocking them.

Ugenti, according to our friends up at the Phoenix New Times, has had a tendency to let her mouth wander a bit in public:

As the Legislative cameras rolled, Ugenti bantered with male colleagues about how long the hearing might go on and whether there would be a break for dinner.

One of them informed Ugenti: "Michelle, I have a hot date tonight."

"No you don't, stop it," she shot back. "Your right hand doesn't count."

Then in June 2012, a funny/horribly crass Twitter account, @RubbingUGently, popped up, using an edited photo of Ugenti and featuring such gems as:


and


So though Ugenti claims that the law was drawn up because constituents requested her help with online impersonation issues, it's not difficult to think that owners of parody accounts, such as @RubbingUGently, might be lashed together with folks such as Robert Dale Esparza, Jr., as targets of this bill.

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