Social Networking Impersonation Now a Felony in Texas

Matthew S. Veech

February 1, 2010

The Texas legislature passed a new law effective September 1, 2009 that deals in part with impersonating another on a social networking website (Texas Penal Code Section 37.07-“Online Harassment”). This law makes it a felony to use the name or persona of another person to create a web page on or to post one or more messages on a commercial social networking site (1) without obtaining the other person’s consent; and (2) with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person.

The law further provides that it is a misdemeanor for a person to send an electronic mail, instant message, text message or similar communication that references a name, domain address, phone number or other item of identifying information belonging to any person (1) without obtaining the other person’s consent; (2) with the intent to cause a recipient of the communication to reasonably believe that the other person authorized or transmitted the communication; and (3) with the intent to harm or defraud any person.

This law could prove to be particularly helpful to employers who are presented with the issue of a disgruntled former employee posting or sending under the name of someone else disparaging statements about the employer’s business, management, or other employees.

The law could also prove helpful to employers that are dealing with the task of effectively monitoring employee communications about company-related business on the various social-networking websites.