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Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal

Abstract

Several recent high-profile instances of cyberbullying and online impersonation have prompted state legislatures to take action against this real and growing problem. As part of this trend, California recently enacted Senate Bill 1411, which criminalizes "e-personation." At first glance, this statute looks perfectly reasonable: it is short, filled with good intentions, and merely applies existing harassment, intimidation and fraud laws to the relatively recent medium of the Internet. However, a thorough read reveals vague and overly broad language which could result in chilled political activism and free speech. This note analyzes the statute and attempts to provide some guidance on how the language should be constructed by reviewing courts (or, ideally, amended by the legislature) to narrow and more clearly define the vague and ambiguous language, ultimately concluding that the behavior at which this statute is directed is best regulated by the private platforms on which it is conducted.

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