MORENO, MORRELL PRE-FILE BILLS
State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, has pre-filed a bill that would create the crime of "online impersonation." Moreno told Gambit she was motivated by a friend who found a fake Facebook account set up in her likeness. "All that could be done about it is take the page down," Moreno said. "I thought, 'That's bizarre. There's got to be some type of (penalty).'"
The House Criminal Justice Committee didn't have any such provision on file, nor do state laws cover that sort of specific "impersonation," which is not quite identity theft, nor is it cyberbullying or cyberstalking, Moreno said.
Moreno's House Bill 96, which defines "online impersonation" as the "intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud" and intentionally use another person's name without consent to create an email address or "a profile on a social networking website or other Internet website." Similar cases of so-called online impersonation have prompted Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York and Texas to adopt provisions to criminalize the act.
Moreno said satirists like the publishers of the monthly newspaper The Levee and "fake" Twitter accounts and anonymous bloggers aren't her targets. Her aim is to prevent "damage to people's reputations." Penalties could include fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Moreno said the Louisiana State Police (through its Louisiana State Fusion Center) would act as the proposed law's investigative arm. She added that she has also received support from the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
This year's legislative session begins March 12.
Also filing this session: State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, introduced Senate Bill 58, which "prohibits the use of public funds to disseminate the criminal history of a murder victim in Orleans Parish." Earlier this month, New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas reversed the department's controversial practice of releasing murder victims' criminal records. At the time, Morrell spoke out against the practice. (Morrell didn't return Gambit's call by press time.)
Morrell's bill, however, doesn't clarify whether NOPD would be exempt from having to release those public records when requested — for example, in its current language, the bill could prevent an online search of the Orleans Parish Docket Master (which searches the parish's criminal database) from displaying the criminal records for an individual who also was a murder victim. The bill's exceptions to releasing the information are if the criminal history is directly related to the investigation, or if the person releasing the information states publicly "why such information is necessary." — ALEX WOODWARD