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Arizona legislator seeks prison for online impersonation

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker wants to crack down on online posers.

Republican State Rep. Michelle Ugenti, who represents Fountain Hills and Scottsdale, is pushing legislation (House Bill 2004) that would make it a felony to pose as someone else on Facebook or Twitter.

California and Texas are among the states that have online impersonation laws.

Ugenti wants prison time for creating a fake social media account for malicious reasons. Anjali Abraham with the ACLU is concerned with the bill’s wording and the First Amendment implications. She believes making this a felony is heavy-handed.

“There might be a better way to go about penalizing the kind of conduct the sponsor says she’s interested in,” Abraham said.

Attorney Chris Mason, of Polsinelli Shughart in downtown Phoenix, said the state has laws to keep people from harassing or threatening someone via electronic communication and for now that’s enough.

“It will create a lot of constitutional concerns and lead to challenges if someone even tries to enforce it,” Mason said.

Ugenti did not return calls for an interview.

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