Texas lawmakers passed a new bill that makes it a crime to impersonate people online.
The new "online harassment" statute makes it a felony to create phony profiles on social networking sites with the intent to "harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten" others. The statute defines commercial social networking sites broadly, saying they include any sites that allow people to register to communicate with others or create Web pages or profiles.
the Texas law appears problematic for at least two reasons: it singles out social networking sites and bans speech that might be permissible. "The whole social networking exceptionalism is ridiculous," he says. "There's no way to distinguish social networking sites from other sites."
the attempt to ban fake profiles might be unconstitutional because it could end up also criminalizing legitimate speech. "There's so much potential speech that's covered by this, it makes me nervous," he says.
Last year, a Texas appellate court invalidated another harassment law that made it a crime to send repeated emails "in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another." In that case, the court ruled that the law potentially criminalized speech that was allowed under the First Amendment.