‘Catfishing’ bill

Legislation to give legal recourse to Oklahoma victims of “catfishing” was sent to the governor by a vote of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and was signed by Gov. Fallin.

Catfishing is an online scheme where a predator impersonates someone else in order to trick a victim into giving out personal data and information. The legislation would be the first of its kind in the nation, the author said.

House Bill 3024, by state Rep. John Paul Jordan, the “Catfishing Liability Act of 2016,” would allow people whose photos or videos are stolen to request an automatic injunction against the person using them. It would also allow those victims to request monetary damages, including a $500 minimum award in punitive damages. “This is providing a direct remedy for the victims of Internet catfishing,” said Jordan, R-Yukon. “In many cases, these people are severely disturbed predators. Their victims deserve a remedy. This bill is an attempt to provide that remedy through the least restrictive means possible.”

Jordan says that catfishing represents a legal gray area in Oklahoma and that judges would have little guidance on how to rule if such case ever came up in court.

“If we wait for Congress to act on this issue, too much time will have passed for today’s victims,” said Jordan. “In addition, as someone who has practiced in Federal Court, it is easier and more effective to seek a remedy at the state courthouse than at the federal courthouse.”

Popularized by MTV’s show Catfish, Internet catfishing is where a person knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness through social media to create false identities in attempts to lure victims into a relationship, normally romantic and sometimes financial.

“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you should be a victim,” said Jordan. “This is something that disproportionately impacts millennials but can affect any age group. Unfortunately, people of all age groups are being purposely manipulated and strung along by these predators.”