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Punishing Internet imposters
Oregon isn’t among the nine states that make it a criminal offense to impersonate someone online.
It should join that list.
Not every person who has his or her name co-opted by a Facebook imposter suffers any real harm, of course.
But the potential for irreparable damage, whether to a victim’s reputation or bank account, more than justifies adding to the state’s criminal statutes.
Some existing laws could encompass certain types of online impersonation — fraud, identity theft and harassment, for instance, are all illegal in every state.
Still and all, the difference between a harmless prank — creating a Twitter account or Facebook page under a friend’s name and posting silly pictures or slightly embarrassing quotes, say — and permanently sullying a person’s name isn’t always distinct.
In a recent case in Baker City, someone created a Facebook page pretending to be former City Councilor Gary Dielman, who’s an elected member of the Baker County Library District board and of the Baker County Democratic Central Committee.
It’s not clear what the imposter did, other than exchange online messages with at least one local resident.
But with no state law in place that deals explicitly with online impersonators whose motivations aren’t blatant, Oregon is too inviting a place for imposters who might be trying to pull something other than a juvenile prank.