Social Media Bill Not Aimed at Parodies

A facebook account created to criticize 8th district congressional candidate Kathy Boockvar

A proposed bill to penalize online impersonation is aimed at protecting private citizens from online harassment and not intended to impact online satire or parody, a House GOP spokesperson said Wednesday. While we’re at it, what do you think is the best parody account in PA politics?

A proposed bill to penalize online impersonation is aimed at protecting private citizens from online harassment and not intended to impact online satire or parody, a House GOP spokesperson said Wednesday.

Jennifer Keaton, Public Relations Coordinator for House GOP said House Bill 2249 is designed to crack down on cyberbullying and other malicious activities. She said that amendments are likely forthcoming to better delineate the activity in question.

“It’s not meant for criticism, for parodies,” she said. “That’s not what we’re looking at.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks), said she was inspired to introduce her bill – which is co-sponsored by 27 Republicans and 6 Democrats – after hearing the story of a local teacher whose students had impersonated her with a fake email address.

From The Intelligencer:

The woman, a Warrington resident, discovered that two students had created an email account in her name and used it to harass another student. Local police investigated the incident, Watson said, and the account was shut down.

However, the district attorney’s office indicated the students couldn’t be charged under Pennsylvania’s identity theft statute because the teacher didn’t suffer a financial loss.

The measure has broad support from law enforcement officials, but some are concerned that the bill would threaten free speech.

“The ‘deceive’ or ‘harm’ language in the bill is the most problematic,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “One person’s public criticism is another person’s deception or harm. Our lawyers haven’t yet concluded how to protect the privacy of the Pennsylvanian who is being genuinely harassed while keeping public discourse protected and free, but we’re working on it.”

“We don’t want police and DAs to become speech police, so the boundaries in the bill need to be clear. I’m hopeful that we can work it out.”

Specifically, the bill would classify it as an offense of online impersonation to use the name, persona or identifying information of another person to create a website, post a comment on a social media site, or send an electronic communication with the intent to deceive, harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten any person. It would be a third degree misdemeanor.

The stakes could be high for new media politicos. It’s become very popular in the past few years for critics or supporters to create parody accounts of politicians and elected officials – often with hilarious results. The language in the bill does not specifically exempt such activity.

PoliticsPA is seeking reaction from Rep. Watson regarding these concerns.

While we’re at it, what do you think is the best parody account in Pennsylvania politics? Comment below.

August 29th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 15 Comments

15 thoughts on “Social Media Bill Not Aimed at Parodies”

  1. David Diano says:

    “Joe” –
    Do you realize that impersonating “that Admiral guy” to attack me IS what the bill is about?

    Ironically, the real Joe Sestak is a fake
    so he could be in a lot of trouble for impersonating a Democrat.

  2. Joe Sestak says:

    I hope that this bill passes and then I’d make sure that Dave Diano is arrested for everything that he’s ever said about me online.

    Joe for Gov in 2014

  3. Mary Beth says:

    You should treat people the way you want to be treated. Do the men have daughters? Would they appreciate seeing someone falsely accuse their daughters giving blow jobs on the internet and have boys knocking on their doors? Watch what you ask for when doing to others.

  4. Mickey Flynn says:

    Have to go with @NotLarryMaggi. For those of who know that hayseed, the account is pitch perfect and topical. I give you “Making preparations to ride out #Isaac. Anyone know where I can secure two industrial-size drums of @MiracleWhip? #LetLarryHoard”

  5. Aaron Hartman says:

    This is nothing more then a conspricy to destory personal freedom from online use and freedom of speech

  6. James McAntee says:

    Not a parody account, but still pretty funny about Mike Fitzpatrick. http://nextstopkstreet.tumblr.com/

  7. Cherylann says:

    They can’t debate on his awful policies so they slam people. Honesty is the best policy! High five to us for FACTS and TRUTH to the voters.

  8. Susan says:

    14 likes really are not indicative of support…a few are people who had to “like” to comment.
    I am blocked. Just as well. Everyone knows what this is about…and frankly it does not affect Boockvar…it defines the Fitzpatrick team and in effect Fitzpatrick as he has remained silent which is approval by default. The same thing can be done to him….but the Boockvar people have too much class to get in to the gutter with them. In fact, she has not made any comment that I know of about it but you just know if it was being done to Fitzpatrick the goper whiners would be crying foul.

  9. Alex says:

    Unfortunatley, 14 likes doesn’t mean only 14 people can view the page. I’m not in support of this bill because I love free speech even this vile spew. But I think we should bring attention to Mike Falkewitz’s complete disdain for this women only because she has anatomy that he obviously cannot handle to the liking of his significant other; otherwise he’d have more respect for women than he does

  10. social guru says:

    Considering there are only 14 “likes” for the Radical Kathy page, I’d say it’s hardly worth an honorable mention.
    Social media is only as effective when you have an audience. 14 hardly qualifies.

    Better he waste his time doing that than something more disturbing though. I hope it takes hours and hours of his day.

  11. Steelblitz1 says:

    Social media is a form of expression/ speech. The content in political cases may bring up the argument/ standard of private citizen vs. Public official. As slander cases point out, not mere negligence… but rather a higher reckless disregard for the truth would be the standard when it comes to a public official.

    This is obviously not the same as falsely impersonating someone completely and attempting to portray ones self as representative of that official, candidate, or campaign.

  12. Lillian... says:

    Well how is saying in Kathys name vote for me because I have no gag reflex really satire?

  13. Boot Scoot n' Boogie says:

    Not Larry Maggi because it is the most accurate!

  14. Alex says:

    Well for people interested. The facebook page “Radical Kathy” is a Fitzpatrick supporter named Mike Falkewitz. He’s been a Tea Party stooge for many years and due to the content of that FB page is very sexist and instead of debating Fitzpatrick’s awful support for Todd Akins “redefining rape” bill, he referts to childish tactics of sexism. Its very sad Mr. Falkewitz

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