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California legislation effective January 1, 2011 expands existing law into the electronic realm by providing that “any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense”.  For this purpose, using “electronic means” is deemed to include “opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person’s name.”  Violation of the new law is punishable as a misdemeanor criminal offense, and the new statute also provides a private civil right of action for damages and injunctive relief.  (SB 1411, adopting new California Penal Code section 528.5).

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