New Texas laws address online behavior

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by ANDREW HORANSKY / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on September 1, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 1 at 8:55 PM

AUSTIN -- About 700 new state laws went into effect on Thursday. At least two of them could affect your life online.

In an effort to keep up with technology, laws in Texas now address “sexting” and “spoofing.”

Spoofing is the act of posing online as someone you are not and then emailing a victim.

“In doing it, you have to intend to harass or annoy someone,” said criminal defense attorney Jodi Callaway Cole.

With the passing of House Bill 1666, spoofing is now illegal.

The other new online law to go into effect Thursday was Senate Bill 407, which sets rules on sexting. Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) filed the bill earlier this year.

“The law is there to help make sure our children don’t get prosecuted for felony pornography for making a bad mistake,” Sen. Watson said.

Last school year, a student at Cedar Park High School allegedly took a nude picture and sent it to her boyfriend. They broke up and the boyfriend allegedly passed it on.

Investigators at the time said that child porn charges would be likely for anyone who sent it. If they sent it now and they were a minor, they would no longer face felony charges.

“We now have a tool that will help prosecutors in dealing better with our kids,” Watson said.

Not all prosecutors agree.

“It’s probably not going to be used very much because it’s not written very artfully, and it’s difficult to prosecute under this specific statute,” Williamson Country District Attorney John Bradley said. “I suspect in a future legislative session it will have to be revisited.”

Students who sext will now face misdemeanor charges. They and their parents are also likely to participate in an education program.

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