Section 33.07 of the Texas Penal Code, Online Harassment

Interesting to note that Texas has a criminal charge on the books that covers creating a fake online ID, that is a third-degree felony. Todays Austin American Statesman drew my attention to it, not because of the story content, which is kind of sleazy, but for the law. Strange how Texas can be really quite progressive in some areas, but staggeringly regressive in others.

The Austin American Statesman article is here on their blog. Apprently after some googling, it’s covered by Section 33.07 of the Texas Penal Code, Online Harassment.

[According to http://chadwestlaw.com/resources/criminal-defense-news/] The amended code 33.07(a) allows a person to be charged with a third degree felony if he or she uses the name or “persona” of another, without that person’s permission and with the intent to “harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person” by creating a web page on a commercial social networking site or other Internet website. The legislature broadened the scope of section 33.07(a) significantly by including the words, “other Internet website.” This broader language could now open the door for charges to be brought against someone who creates an Ebay or Pay Pal account by using another’s credit card and identification information (fraudulently) and purchases goods. Thus, an online impersonator who uses another’s credit card and personal information may not only face theft charges, but may also be looking at a charge of online impersonation.

There are some obvious potential legitimate uses that might fall under this, but it could also be used for example to go after id’s like the Fake Steve Jobs, so it will be interesting to watch how this 2011 amendment does get used. This is the first time I’ve seen it, and this seems to be entirely appropriate.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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