Christy Rash of Texas said it was a joke when she created a Craigslist ad with another woman’s Facebook picture and phone number displayed. That woman was not laughing after dozens of calls from men asking for sex. This month Rash, 35, was charged with online impersonation, a little-known felony intended to crack down on those who use the Internet and social networks to abuse, harass, and damage the reputations of victims, the Houston Chronicle reports. It has been used against a spurned suitor who signed a woman up for an inmate’s online pen pal service; a high school graduate who allegedly created a Facebook page impersonating his principal; and a sports announcer accused of using Twitter to harass a reporter, claiming she was in a relationship with a married man.
Experts say the state law is an example of emerging cyber legislation designed to rein in criminal activity stemming from growing use of the Web and social networks. “As the Internet grows and expands, what people do on the Internet and the ability of bad guys to do evil with it grows and becomes more pervasive,” said prosecutor John Wakefield, who works in the child exploitation section. “These laws aren’t going to be perfect, but it’s the best attempt to keep people from being harmed in this new medium. That’s the intent of this law.” Johnny Nhan, assistant criminal justice professor at Texas Christian University, said the online impersonation law is not likely to gain traction, noting difficulty of enforcement and prosecutors’ reluctance to take on cases.