Image Credit: Florian Seefried/Getty Images; Albert L. Ortega/PRThe authorities are cracking down on social media, folks! There’s a new law in California that prohibits impersonating another individual online for the purposes of “harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding a person.” Interesting. So your plan to create a phony Justin Bieber account and accumulate a few million screeching Twitter followers could get you tossed in the slammer?! And what about fake celeb tweeters like @ChuckNorris_ and @Nick_Nolte? Are the authorities coming after them? Not necessarily, says L.A. entertainment lawyer Alonzo Wickers. “If someone online is doing an impersonation that’s clearly humorous and designed to mock or ridicule the celebrity, I don’t think that’s going to be made illegal by this new bill,” he explains. “There’s strong First Amendment protection for that kind of stuff.” In fact, a non-humorous fake celeb page is still tough to take down unless someone can prove that it causes real harm to the celebrity involved.
Perhaps more important in all this is the simple fact that the phenomenon of fake Twitter and Facebook profiles has dwindled since the sites started self-policing (hence the “Verified Account” badge on bona fide celeb Twitter feeds), making the need for a bill like this seems slightly less than urgent than, for example, a law forbidding Twitter TMI or excessive Facebook status updates. Now there’s legislation I could get behind.
What do you think, PopWatchers: Do fake celeb Twitter and Facebook accounts pose a real problem? And what other laws would you like to see slapped on social networking?