'Catfishing' could be a misdemeanor in Wisconsin under new bill
WAUSAU (WAOW) -
A practice called "Catfishing" could become illegal in Wisconsin if a bill recently introduced to the legislature passes. Catfishing is pretending to be another person online to manipulate someone else, out of romantic, harmful or fraudulent intent.
The term was made popular by "Catfish: The TV Show" that arranges for people in internet relationships to meet face to face and see if the other person is who they say they are in cyberspace.
"It's just a matter of looking at statutes that are outdated," said State Representative Bob Kulp who proposed the bill.
Lawmakers and police say the proposed legislation keeps up with the changing times and new types of crimes.
"We deal with a lot of different types of cases that utilize the internet, that's just the way our society is, so typically one way or another there's always some form of electronic communication involved with a lot of our investigations," said Detective Sargent Dan Goff of the Everest Metro Police Department.
There are existing laws against deceiving impersonation but not online, and against cyberbullying but without specifying impersonation. Those laws are also more than 20-years-old.
"We also included online impersonation which historically is something that wasn't specifically listed in cyberbullying statutes," Rep. Kulp said. "Oklahoma did this recently and that's what peaked my interest."
The penalty under the bill is a misdemeanor.
"We would typically be the ones to look into it depending on what the circumstances are if we have to obtain search warrants to confirm what devices are being used or where those devices are being used in order to locate the individual," Sgt. Goff said.
The measure has wide bipartisan support and has even been retweeted by one of the Catfish TV Show hosts.