Arizona Politician Parodied By Fake Twitter Accounts Pushes Bill To Make Online Impersonation A Felony

from the be-careful-who-you-parody dept

It’s become quite common these days to see people set up “fake” social network profiles for certain people as a way to parody them. There have been a few lawsuits here and there over such fake profiles, but should they be a crime? As noted by the Citizen Media Law Project, Arizona State Representative Michelle Ugenti has proposed a bill that would make it a class 5 felony to impersonate someone online “with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten.” That last part, obviously, limits the purely parodical accounts, but the definitions of those words could be quite broad, and the risk of an overly broad interpretation is quite real. Considering that class 5 felonies in Arizona come with a “presumptive sentence of a year and a half imprisonment,” you would hope that the definitions here would be a lot clearer.

Of course, as the CMLP article notes, you have to wonder if Ugenti proposed this bill for personal reasons — seeing as there are some parody twitter accounts for her, specifically @RubbingUGently and @RepMUgenti. It seems that Rep. Ugenti got some attention for snapping at a bunch of students, who would be charged $2,000 more (regardless of their financial aid setup) to attend university in the state, “welcome to life,” and for making a hacky masturbation joke during committee hearings. If you want, the quip is at 2:14:30, and involves another committee member asking how long the hearings are going to run, and saying that he has “a hot date” that he wants to get to, leading her to say: “No you don’t. Stop it. Your right hand doesn’t count.” All clearly overheard on microphone.

Would those parody accounts be subject to this new law? CMLP suggests they would likely be protected under the First Amendment, but of course, it could involve a long and convoluted trial to prove that point. Just the threat of jail time could create serious chilling effects on parody speech. As for Rep. Ugenti being concerned about fake Twitter and Facebook profiles, perhaps she should take her own advice: “welcome to life.”

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Comments on “Arizona Politician Parodied By Fake Twitter Accounts Pushes Bill To Make Online Impersonation A Felony”

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gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“As Think Progress noted, nearly 100 Arizona students attended the committee hearing to speak out against the bill, HB 2675, expressing concern that it would make it more difficult for many students to afford college. Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale) responded bluntly in favor of the new measure: “Welcome to life.”

Fuck You Ugenti !!! Hope to see a Million Ugenti Fake Parodies !
But better yet I hope to see a lot of the GOP losing Seats in the next Election.
They have become a great impediment to our Freedom.

GMacGuffin says:

Sounds like California's Statute ...

We have Penal Code ?528.5 in CA, which makes it a misdemeanor to do essentially the same thing.

528.5. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

I haven’t heard any stories of abuse of the statute, but then I haven’t been looking.

A few weeks ago, I would have thought it not likely ripe for prosecutorial abuse. Not so much now.

Anonymous Coward says:

when a politician does something wrong, even when very wrong, like calling the leader of Iran ‘a monkey’, it’s not only ‘ok’, but anyone that brings it to the attention of others is told to ‘chill out’. when someone does something like this TO a politician, all of a sudden there is a new law in the offering to get the behaviour banned! how strange it is that they can dish out but not take back! another example of just how selfish and self-centered these arse holes we have ‘protecting us’ really are!

Anonymous Coward says:

When will politicians ever learn that state lawmakers cannot pass laws that directly conflict with Federal or constitutional laws. You cannot pass a law that has a conflict with the first amendment. While you can try, there isn’t any court in the land that would allow any such state law to remain.

Instead, this lawmaker is going to end up wasting taxpayer dollars on a law that will be struck down by the Federal courts.

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