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Ex-girlfriend’s Phony Facebook Page Tests NJ Identity... Yesterday New Jersey Superior Court Judge David Ironson refused to dismiss an indictment charging a woman with identity theft for allegedly adversely impersonating her ex-boyfriend...


The Center for Democracy and Technology Defends Mobile... Last week the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) made a public appeal to gain support for their campaign to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act’s (ECPA)...


Canadian Supreme Court Protects Free Speech on the... This month the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling that protects Website owners who provide hyperlinks to allegedly defamatory content from liability. The facts of the...


NJ State Senator Will Introduce Online Gambling Legislation... In March Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have made New Jersey the first state in the country to allow online gambling within its borders. He vetoed the law...


Federal Shield Law in the Senate Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws. Shield laws are important because they safeguard the public's right to know by protecting the rights of...


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Ex-girlfriend’s Phony Facebook Page Tests NJ Identity Theft Law

Posted on : 03-11-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Online Privacy, Online Speech


Yesterday New Jersey Superior Court Judge David Ironson refused to dismiss an indictment charging a woman with identity theft for allegedly adversely impersonating her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. Dana Thornton, 41, faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted of using Facebook to impersonate Michael Lasalandra, her ex-boyfriend who is a Parsippany narcotics detective. While Thornton’s attorney, Richard Roberts maintains that New Jersey’s identity theft should not apply because the law does not include “electronic communications,” it is unclear whether Thornton will appeal.

According to the New Jersey statute, a defendant is guilty of identity theft if she “impersonates another or assumes a false identity and does an act in such assumed character or false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another.” This law does not specify its pertinence to electronic communications, nor does it specify its pertinence to any other form of communication. Historically, this statute was used to convict people who impersonate another for financial gain. However, if the allegations against Thornton are true, it is clear that she assumed her ex-boyfriend’s identity for the purpose of injuring his reputation as a police officer. According to Ben Horowitz’s article, Judge Rules Case of Belleville Woman’s Fake Facebook Page Can Proceed, Thornton, while impersonating Detective Lasalandra on Facebook, “admitted using drugs, going to prostitutes and having herpes.” Furthermore, Judge Ironson affirmed that Thornton’s statements were harmful to his “professional reputation.” A pre-trial conference is scheduled for December 7.

Please read the following articles to learn more about this case:

To learn more about online identity theft, please read my following articles

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California Criminalizes Online Impersonation (E-Personation)

Posted on : 04-01-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Speech


This week a California law criminalizing online impersonation went into effect. Despite the possible free speech implications, SB 1411 was passed unanimously by the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under Senate Bill 1411 (SB 1411), “Any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense punishable . . . by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.” In addition, those damaged may seek civil relief against the violator in the form of compensatory damages and injunctive or equitable relief.

In a press release entitled, Malicious E-Personation Protection Effective January 1, SB 1411’s author, State Senator Joe Simitian said, “E-personation is the dark side of the social networking revolution. Facebook or MySpace pages, e-mails, texting and comments on Web forums have been used to humiliate or torment people and even put them in danger. Victims have needed a law they can turn to.” Victims can suffer not only damages to their reputations, but they can also suffer monetary and physical damages as well. Please see the following examples:

  • CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Carl Guardino’s brother, a teacher, was impersonated by someone on Facebook whose posts made it seem as though he was mocking a disabled student.
  • In December a New York Times article, As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up, written by Jan Hoffman highlighted a mother who was distressed by her son’s emotional withdrawal. She learned he was being ostracized at school because “someone had forged his identity” and created a fake Facebook page where other children where being bullied in his name.
  • In May 2009, Elizabeth Thrasher, a 40-year-old posted the photo, workplace, e-mail address and cell phone number of the 17-year-old daughter of her ex-husband’s girlfriend on Craigslist’s personals section. The 17-year-old was subsequently harassed by men over the phone and via e-mails and text messages.
  • In October 2006 Lori Drew, her daughter Ashley Grills, and her 18-year-old employee created fake MySpace and AOL Messenger accounts of a nonexistent teen named Josh Evans to befriend 13-year-old Megan Meier. Once a friendship formed, “Evans” turned on Megan. She committed suicide after reading the following message sent by Evans’ AOL account: “Everybody in O’Fallon knows who you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a bad rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.” (Note: Only online impersonation of an actual person that is credible and done without consent would fall under the law.)
  • In December 2009 Jebidiah James Stipe posed as his ex-girlfriend and posted an ad on Craigslist seeking “a real aggressive man with no concern for women.” One week later, a man accepted the offer, forced his way into the woman’s home, tied her up and raped her at knifepoint.

While this law will not stop e-personation, it provides a legal basis to prosecute impersonators that mitigate harm. Moreover, SB 1411 serves as a deterrent where one did not previously exist.

However, some worry it could impede free speech. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to protect fundamental civil liberties in the digital world believes SB 1411 undermines the First Amendment’s protection of parody. In her article, E-Personation Bill Could Be Used to Punish Online Critics, EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry’s, writes, “Here’s the problem: temporarily ‘impersonating’ corporations and public officials has become an important and powerful form of political activism, especially online.” McSherry and others like Mike Bonanno, a member of the Yes Men, a group that uses impersonation parody to raise awareness, believe that SB 1411 gives victims little legal recourse, but provides a forum for corporations and political cronies to silence activists exercising free speech. Still however, proponents of SB 1411 contend that the law will not undermine online activism and existing First Amendment free speech protections will continue to protect parody, satire and political speech.

To learn more, please read:

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