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March 22, 2011

California Bans Impersonating Another Person Online

California has understandably taken a lead in protecting individuals online, for example, in its privacy breach notification law. Now it targets a common tactic for harassing individuals in today's Internet era--impersonating someone.

SB 1411 creates a new section of the California Penal Code, which bars the online impersonation of another person for the purpose of harming someone.

528.5 (a) 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).

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(c) For purposes of this section, "electronic means" shall include opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person's name.

(d) A violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(e) In addition to any other civil remedy available, a person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of subdivision (a) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief pursuant to paragraphs (1), (2), (4), and (5) of subdivision (e) and subdivision (g) of Section 502.

(f) This section shall not preclude prosecution under any other law.