Arizona Bill Could Outlaw Certain Fake Online Profiles

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If House Bill 2004 becomes law, the internet could be a quieter (and probably less re-tweeted) place. Proposed by Republican Arizona State Representative Michelle Ugenti, the bill seeks to make it a felony to create an online profile -- like, say, on Twitter or Facebook -- in someone else's name with the intent to "harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten." In addition, sending an email or text message under another person's name would be considered a misdemeanor if these messages also intend to defraud or otherwise cause harm.

Ugenti told The Arizona Republic that she was inspired to create the bill after one of her constituents came to her for help with a web-related issue that had caused the person both personal and professional damage. The bill takes its cue from a similar Texas law. Other such laws also exist in Louisiana, New York, and California, among other states.

Still, The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is currently researching HB 2004, as its critics fear that parody accounts could be penalized if the bill passed.

Ugenti has said in the past that the bill would not affect parody sites or Twitter accounts, rather it is "the impersonation without the individual's consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate and threaten" that the bill seeks to address.

That may come as some relief to whoever created a parody account of Ugenti after she made a comment referencing masturbation to a male colleague during a session of the House Government Committee.

State Rep. Ugenti's office did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time Arizona pols have gone down this road. Just last year, Arizona passed House Bill 2549, which essentially banned some versions of internet "trolling."

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