The Judiciary Committee of the state House of Representatives has approved legislation, HB 2249, that would create the crime of “online impersonation.” Under the bill, the crime would be committed when a person’s name, persona or identifying information is used without his or her consent and with the intent to deceive, harm, defraud or threaten through the creation of a Web page, a social networking site or similar online communication. The crime would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

“In this Internet age, individuals are using this technology to maliciously harm a person’s reputation and then are hiding behind the anonymity it offers,” said state Representative Katharine M. Watson, R-Bucks, the sponsor of the bill. “This legislation is intended to add real consequences to those who use fake personas to bully, threaten or defraud someone else. Those who are committing these acts are planning their every move with the sole intent to destroy the person or his or her reputation and are not just playing a joke.”

The committee also approved a measure, HB 2590, that would provide the state Attorney General’s Office and county district attorneys with the authority to issue an administrative subpoena to an Internet service provider to assist in investigations of offenses committed involving the sexual exploitation or abuse of children via the Internet.

— J.L.K. •