recommended reading

Can the government really ban Twitter parody accounts?


Arizona is entertaining a law that will make it a felony to use another person's real name to make an Internet profile intended to "harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten," which to some sounds like a law against parody Twitter accounts. The legislation, if passed, would make Arizona one of a few states, including New York, California, Washington and Texas, to enact anti-online-impersonation laws. If these regulations seek to put a stop to fake representations online, that does sound like the end of fake celebrity baby accounts and Twitter death hoaxes. Then again, these laws have existed in these other places foryears, and that hasn't stopped the faux accounts from coming in. So what then does this mean?

What kind of stuff is the law intended to prosecute?

The law does not say that all uses of another person's real name can be charged as a felony, but only profiles made for the more nefarious purposes fall into that territory. The legislation is  targeted at more serious forms of impersonation, like cyber bullying. Two Texas teens were arrested and charged under this law for creating a fake Facebook page to ruin a peer's reputation, for example. Or, the case of Robert Dale Esparza Jr. who created a fake profile of his son's vice principal on a porn site might fall under this law, suggests The Arizona Republic's Alia Beard Rau. Or, in one of the cases brought to court under the Texas version of this law, an Adam Limle created websites that portrayed a woman he used to date as a prostitute. (The case was eventually dropped because of a geographical loophole. Limle lived in Ohio, not Texas.) 

Okay, the harm and threat in those situation is pretty clear. How can it at all apply to something relatively harmless, like a Twitter parody account? 

The term "harm" is pretty vague, as this Texas Law blog explains, referring to that state's version of this legislation, on which Arizona based its own law. "'Harm' can be very broadly construed–one person's joke is another person's harm," writes Houston lawyer Stephanie Stradley. 

Read more at The Atlantic Wire

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.