Thursday, June 9, 2011

New York State Assembly Member Mich Z. Kellner Announces Legislation To Combat Online Impersonaton and Identity Theft

Assemblyman Micah Kellner has taken a bold step forward on April 12th, 2011 by sponsoring the critically needed 'Digital Impersonation Prevention Act' bill that will specifically make online impersonation a crime in New York State. The legislation, if passed into law, may be used with other existing state laws dealing with impersonation and identity theft. Unfortunately, malicious activity on the Internet has evolved from online identity theft and impersonation related to financial fraud to a new frontier: the malicious use of a targeted person's name in order to defame, slander, harass, stalk, intimidate, cyberbully, cyberstalk, impersonate, and steal the target's identity in order to cause the target grave and serious personal loss and suffering. 
Presently, online impersonation and online identity theft have been difficult acts to defend against in civil court. Factors that make the civil component difficult to defend include that according to substantial research in this area, a person committing the acts of malicious impersonation tend to portray significant sociopathic behavior. In addition, most individuals acting with online malice toward a target typcially do not posses significant assets and so, a civil default judgement has little consquence or meaning to them. What does - and this is where New York State Assembly Member Kellner and Senator Martin Golden's legislation will matter: for those who definantly act to maliciously impersonate another person online with the purpose of causing injury: that person will face serious criminal consequences and jail.
The following statement was posted on New York State Assembly Member Kellner's webiste:

The Digital Impersonation Prevention Act Will Crack Down on New Wave of Online Harassment
April 12, 2011

NYC – New York State Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner (D-Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island) announced legislation today that will protect New Yorkers on the Internet—creating stronger penalties for online identity theft.
The Digital Impersonation Prevention Act (DIPA) strengthens the state’s protections against thieves who use innocent victims’ identities to harass, defraud, or send spam to others. It also makes it possible for victims of identity theft to seek civil penalties from the perpetrators.
“It seems like every day we hear about a new and horrific case of identity theft,” Assembly Member Kellner said. “It’s grown beyond hacking into your bank account. People’s lives can be ruined by thieves who steal their email accounts or Facebook pages to use them for malicious purposes. People have actually been driven to suicide in cases.”
Digital identity theft, also known as digital impersonation, has been a growing problem in the Internet era. The United States Federal Communications Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. While the major motive for identity theft has often been financial fraud, recently there has been an increase in the use of the anonymity that the Internet provides to harass individuals.
In 2010, a single mother named Marie from Newburryport, Massachusetts, noticed that her son had become increasingly withdrawn since entering a new high school. Marie soon discovered that a number of her son’s classmates had created a Facebook page with her son’s name and picture. The page in question was being used by others to bully people her son barely knew, with the blame for this behavior falling unfairly on her son, who was ostricized by his classmates. This is exactly the behavior that Assembly Member Kellner’s bill seeks to combat.
Thieves have also made use of stolen identities to send ‘spam’—unsolicited bulk email messages and commercial solicitations — getting around mechanisms intended to block such unwanted messages by sending them from the accounts of unwitting identity theft victims.
“Anonymity is a criminal’s best friend—and it’s one of the defining features of the Internet,” said Assembly Member Kellner. “New Yorkers deserve stronger protections so we can bring these nefarious individuals out of the shadows and hold them accountable for their actions.”
The legislation, (A.6238/S.4015), will create effective penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for those who engage in digital impersonation for the purposes of harming, threatening, or defrauding another person, as well as sending unsolicited bulk emails and commercial solicitations, or utilizing a contact list. It also establishes a civil cause of action for people who are victims of digital impersonation, allowing victims to sue perpetrators for up to $500 for each incident.
The bill is sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn).

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