If passed, House Bill 2004 -- which was proposed by Arizona Republican State Representative Michelle Ugenti -- would make it a crime to impersonate someone online without their permission and with the intent to "harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten" anyone.
In addition, the bill would make it a misdemeanor to send an email, text message or instant message impersonating someone else without their permission and with the intent to cause "harm."
According to The Arizona Republic, Ugenti modeled the Arizona billon a similar law in Texas that was passed in 2009. As recently as October, a woman was jailed in the Lone Star state after allegedly pretending to be a doctor in an elaborate scheme to convince her friend to engage in a relationship with her.
New York, California and Washington have enacted similar laws, as well. In New York, where the law banning online impersonation has been in effect since 2008, the language is vague and subject to broad interpretation.
Of course, Arizona's proposed bill isn't specifically trying to shut down those Twitter parody accounts. It seeks to outlaw harmful online impersonation, which can be a dangerous crime that can get people killed. For example, Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl, committed suicide in 2006 after a Missouri woman, her daughter and a family friend set up a fake MySpace account pretending to be a 16-year-old boy in order to fool and bully Meier.
But critics of the bill say that if the "intent to harm" phrase is interpreted broadly, it could provoke a controversy involving the First Amendment.
"The problem with this, and other online impersonation bills, is the potential that they could be used to go after parody or social commentary activities," an attorney from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation told The Arizona Republic.
Twitter already has its own rules regarding parody accounts, stating users cannot take a person's real name without a qualifier like "not" or "fake" in front of it. For example, @FakePresidentObama would be OK; @PresidentObama would not. Even with a qualifier, however, Twitter can shut down a parody account if it is misleading or deceiving.
Ugenti did not immediately return a request for comment.
(h/t Daily Dot)
Confessionals, Office Gossip
If you're angry at your boss or playing hookey from work, you probably shouldn't tweet about it. Furthermore, warns Amber Yoo of <a href="http://www.privacyrights.org/" target="_hplink">PrivacyRights.org</a>, tweeting your opinions about work-related topics can lead to trouble in-office. "Unless they are glowing, don't Tweet opinions about your company, clients, products and services. Employers are increasingly monitoring employee conduct on Twitter," says Yoo. "A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/15/fired-over-twitter-tweets_n_645884.html#s112801&title=Cisco_Fatty_Loses" target="_hplink">tweet could cost you your job</a> if you aren't careful."
Intimate Personal Information
Details from your personal history are best left out of your Twitter feed. You can put yourself at risk for identity theft by revealing your birth date and place, your social security number, your maiden name or your mother's maiden name. Twitter also advises users to be wary of phishing schemes. "People are not always who they claim to be on their Twitter profile and you should be wary of any communication that asks for your private contact information, personal information, or passwords," according to the <a href="http://support.twitter.com/entries/115246-safety-privacy-cyberbullying-and-cyberharassment" target="_hplink">Twitter Help Center</a>.
Twitter's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/12/twitter-location-tool-exp_n_496464.html" target="_hplink">geolocation tool</a> can help you broadcast your location without squandering precious text space. However, geotags could potentially be used by stalkers to <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-08/foursquare-and-stalking-is-geotagging-dangerous/" target="_hplink">secretly track</a> someone's location. The good news is that you can <a href="http://support.twitter.com/articles/78525-about-the-tweet-location-feature" target="_hplink">turn this tool off</a> at any time.
Burglars have admitted to using social networks to plan <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/20/burglars-using-twitter-fa_n_652666.html" target="_hplink">home invasions</a>. If you share a public tweet saying that you'll be on vacation for a week, you're also telling your followers that you've left your home untended.
"Be careful not to share your daily routine," says Amber Yoo of <a href="http://www.privacyrights.org/" target="_hplink">PrivacyRights.org</a>. "Tweeting about walking to work, where you go on your lunch break, or when you head home is risky because it may allow a criminal to track you."
Your Kids' Names And Routines
Children can be easy targets for online predators and identity thieves. You can keep your kids safe by leaving their names out of your Twitter feeds and refraining from tweeting about where you pick them up or drop them off every day.
Insurance companies have been known to check Twitter when <a href="http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/02/28/bisb0228.htm" target="_hplink">investigating compensation claims</a> and may even look to social media when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/22/facebook-twitter-users-co_n_471548.html" target="_hplink">assessing a customer's risks</a>. Tweeting about frequent climbing trips, for example, could result in a premiums hike. If you've filed for disability compensation, your insurance company could search for your tweets about high-risk activities and use them to supplement a fraud case against you.
Personal Attacks On Other Users
The Twitter Help Center <a href="http://support.twitter.com/entries/115246-safety-privacy-cyberbullying-and-cyberharassment" target="_hplink">advises</a> users not to engage with bullies: <blockquote>You may encounter people on Twitter who you don't like or who say things that you disagree with or find offensive. Please remain courteous, even if the other people are not. Retaliation can reinforce bad behavior and only encourages bullies. Don't forward or retweet bullying or mean messages. Remember that the things you say can be very hurtful to other people. Don't turn into a bully yourself.</blockquote>
It's a risky move to tweet photos that show what you look like and what your home looks like. Including geotags with these types of photos could put you at risk. Moreover, some smartphones <a href="http://www.switched.com/2010/08/24/i-can-stalk-u-reveals-twitpics-as-creepy-tracking-devices/" target="_hplink">automatically embed geolocation data</a> into your photos, and you may not realize how much private data you're revealing with a simple snapshot. According to <a href="http://www.privacyrights.org/geotagging-privacy" target="_hplink">PrivacyRights.org</a>, "Your real-time location may indicate your home and work addresses, your commuting patterns, what religious institution you visit, how often you go to a doctor, political rallies you attend or whether you are seeking the advice of a lawyer."
Racy Or Inappropriate Photos
"Employers routinely check out Twitter prior to hiring an individual, and have referenced social networking as helping them make choices on future employees," says <a href="http://www.reputation.com/" target="_hplink">Reputation.com</a> founder Michael Fertik. "Use better than average common sense when uploading photos to Twitter - if you wouldn't want your boss or grandmother to see it, it's probably a good idea to hold tight and keep it offline."
Every Detail Of Your Life
Some Twitterers annoy other users by tweeting constantly. Sifting through minutiae on Twitter can be a chore. "It gets annoying and takes space and attention away from other Twitterers' links and observations," <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2345283,00.asp" target="_hplink">writes</a> PCWorld. "If you have that much to say, maybe it belongs on a blog."
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