Sep 1

Online Harassment: New Texas Internet Law Goes Into Effect

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texas

12/16/2009 Update – Please note that I will not be handling any cases involving this law. Consult law enforcement regarding harassment. For civil claims, consult an attorney who specializes in litigation with defamation case experience.

10/19/2012 Update – DO NOT CONTACT MY OFFICE TO REPRESENT YOU IN CYBER BULLYING/INTERNET HARASSMENT CASES. I will not take your case, provide you with legal advice, or serve as a free lawyer referral service either. If you are looking for a lawyer for this type of case, click this link as a good place to start.

Don’t mess with anyone in Texas online.  Effective September 1, 2009, a new Texas law makes it a crime to engage in various activities on commercial social networking sites or by e-mail, instant messaging etc. You can read the actual text of the bill below. Although self-explanatory (to lawyers at least), it seems pretty clear that Texas lawmakers don’t want people impersonating others on the Internet in order to harm, threaten, intimidate, or defraud anyone. The law also covers text messaging. Note that depending on the activities involved, the crime can be either a Class A Misdemeanor or a 3rd degree felony.

Expect there to be legal challenges to the constitutionality of this law. That being said, you don’t want to be the person arrested under it who has to pay the legal bills for that challenge.

12/16/2009 Update – Please note that I will not be handling any cases involving this law. Consult law enforcement regarding harassment. For civil claims, consult an attorney who specializes in litigation with defamation case experience.

H.B. No. 2003

AN ACT
relating to the creation of the offense of online harassment.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1.  Chapter 33, Penal Code, is amended by adding
Section 33.07 to read as follows:

Sec. 33.07.  ONLINE HARASSMENT. (a) A person commits an
offense if the person uses 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.
(b)  A person commits an offense if the person sends 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.
(c)  An offense under Subsection (a) is a felony of the third
degree.  An offense under Subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor,
except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the actor
commits the offense with the intent to solicit a response by
emergency personnel.
(d)  If conduct that constitutes an offense under this
section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor
may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.
(e)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that
the actor is any of the following entities or that the actor’s
conduct consisted solely of action taken as an employee of any of
the following entities:
(1)  a commercial social networking site ;
(2)  an Internet service provider;
(3)  an interactive computer service, as defined by 47
U.S.C. Section 230;
(4)  a telecommunications provider, as defined by
Section 51.002, Utilities Code; or
(5)  a video service provider or cable service
provider, as defined by Section 66.002, Utilities Code.
(f)  In this section:
(1)  ” Commercial social networking site ” means any
business, organization, or other similar entity operating a website
that permits persons to become registered users for the purpose of
establishing personal relationships with other users through
direct or real-time communication with other users or the creation
of web pages or profiles available to the public or to other users.
The term does not include an electronic mail program or a message
board program.
(2)  “Identifying information” has the meaning
assigned by Section 32.51.
SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.