Arizona becomes the latest state to create anti-impersonation laws for the Internet. All total, around 12 states have such laws in one form or another.
The charges against a person would constitute a felony if it was done with the intention to defraud, harm, or threaten a person. Emails or text messages sent that appear to come from someone else are misdemeanors.
These laws promise stronger sentences for people convicted of identity theft.
At the same time, there is concern over the enforcement of these laws and how they could hurt other sites designed for parody purposes. Any time the First Amendment is involved, groups and organizations seek to ensure that there is no infringement. Supporters of these bills say the specifications of intent limits the scope while others say that it is too broad of a term to be used. There will always be controversy where the First Amendment is concerned, especially as it relates to the online world and our freedom to say what we want.
Users need to recognize the potential when interacting with people online and protect themselves. The internet has offered a safe hiding place for all kinds of criminals to lurk and intimidate. Never assume that what you read is true or that it comes from the person or organization that it says without authenticating. Always find a second method of contact such as a physical address or phone number to confirm the sender of any suspicious methods.
Any threatening or suspicious contact from someone online should always be reported to the proper authorities. You should also never give out personal information to anyone unless you are certain who it is you are giving it to.
While laws are enacted to protect citizens, we must also learn how to protect ourselves. This comes with being alert and cautious when interacting online.
[Image via wikipedia]