Online impersonation an excuse for political censorship – Jimmy$

Jimmy Edwards-Turner

The government does not provide civil workers to help us cross the street or tie our shoes, so why the hell is it trying to baby us on the Internet?

Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1411 last Monday, Sept. 27.

The bill states that “any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet website or by other electronic means, as specified, for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

This piece of legislation doesn’t truly serve any regular citizen. The only individuals that worry about defamation online are celebrities, politicians and corporations.

The author of the bill, state Senator Joe Simitian, said it would address, “the dark side of the social networking revolution,” as stated on pcworld.com, but to believe that is a huge mistake.

Some new “e-law” here in California won’t stop anyone in Wyoming from creating a fake Lindsay Lohan MySpace page, and it won’t keep ex-girlfriends from starting alternative Facebook accounts to keep tabs on their former beaus.

But in all honesty, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone knows the Internet is a big place, and it can be very intimidating; that is why one must always be completely aware of one’s online persona.

Persons that use the Internet are responsible for themselves. If you happen to be a public figure, or someone constantly in the spotlight, then it is up to you to look out for impersonators and slanderers.

Conversely, if you’re one of the many people that don’t have the luxury of fame and prestige, then there’s not that much for you to look out for.

This is why this law is such a horribly crafted piece of legislation. It does not protect anyone that needs protecting.

The No.1 reason this law was put into effect is to squash the freedom of speech that runs so rampant on the Internet.

It is stated that the law is not designed to prohibit parody or satire, but it is without a doubt that certain websites, or people running them, will be targeted with legal action.

A prime example is the Yes Men, a group of economic activists that use culture-jamming tactics and elaborate hoaxes to point out blaring injustices made by huge corporations.

These vigilant activists cajole their way into conferences, ask questions and give caustically satirical speeches while under guise of corporate representatives. The World Trade Organization, the unofficial multinational supervisor of trade laws, is the Yes Men’s most famous target.

After launching a website visually similar to the WTO’s, the Yes Men were mistakenly invited to conferences, lectures and televised debates.

The legality of their actions was ambiguous, making it difficult for the targeted organizations to prosecute the activists.

However, this new law will allow corporations to have web-based activists tangled up in court.

This legislation was poorly thought out and will only serve and “protect” those who already have significant influence and power. It is a waste of money, paper and time.

This is just one bill out of many that needs to be repealed and put under the scrutiny of public debate.

It is imperative that we pay attention to what our governing bodies are trying to pass off as law and regulation, otherwise we can end up replacing freedoms with excuses for security.