Will @CEOSteveJobs Test CA’s New Online Impersonation Law?

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Comedianssatirists, and Fake Steve’s everywhere, take note: under California’s new anti-Internet impersonation law, you want to make sure that you show your intent to tickle your reader’s funny bones on the Web.

That’s because under California Penal Code Section 528.5, someone who “knowingly and without consent” uses the Internet to “credibly impersonate[] another actual person” with the intent of “harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Some high-profile personalities and companies in California could put the new law through its paces in court. Here’s why.

We all know that Apple loves a good joke, especially when it comes to their competition.

Remember Mac and his bumbling friend, P.C. guy?

How about Ellen Feis, whose P.C. “devoured” her paper. (“It was a really good paper!”)

With all their mockery of others, you’d think that CEO Steve Jobs and his Apple team could take a joke, right?

Alas, it appears that Apple’s lawyers are clamping down against online parodies poking fun at the tech giant, especially when they tweet as though they’re from Jobs.

You see, a fellow who’s nome de tweet is @CEOSteveJobs received a complaint from a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety department whose nom de l’employé is ‘TheCaptain.’ Ooooooh… TheCaptain.

TheCaptain informed @CEOSteveJobs that Twitter “received a valid impersonation report regarding your account.” Anyone reading this posts from this account would be…umm…hard-pressed not to know that the tweets weren’t written by Jobs. For example, would anyone actually think that this is not parodying Jobs?

The holder of the the @CEOSteveJobs Twitter account identified himself as only as “Christof” to TechCrunch. He makes a strong point that “Most parody doesn’t blatantly label itself.” Doing so would talk all the fun away.

But Twitter has a rather lengthy Impersonation Policy that prohibits users from “pretending to be another person or entity in order to deceive.”

The company takes things up another notch too: Twitter also has an official Parody, Commentary, and Fan Accounts Policy. HT @twitter for the FAQ on your funny policy — and its limitations!

In a hint to Fake Steve Jobs blogger Dan Lyons, Twitter actually encourages people who parody others to distinguish their accounts from the identities of people they want to parody with “a qualifier such as ‘not,’ ‘fake,’ or ‘fan.'”

California’s new online impersonation law is sure be tested in court. The only question is who will be the first litigants.



  • DUMB Law! Sure to get tossed at some point in the appeals process, especially if they try to shut down the parodies. Parodies have been upheld in so many ways it’s not even funny anymore (but reporting on them IS funny).

    The law requires “harming, intimidating, defrauding, and threatening”. None of those are present in a parody.

    A parody probably does violate Twitter’s TOS, but if they’re that tightly wound, perhaps Twitter users should rethink that service.

    Why can’t folks have a good laugh at themselves? Obama, Bush, Clinton, they all have to laugh at themselves from time to time…why is Steve Jobs different?

    Lighten up, folks! (And that means you, too, Twitter!) Go @CEOSteveJobs–keep the humorous insights coming!