Some of the best (and, let’s face it, the worst) comedy on Twitter can be found on the many parody accounts that pop up every day. Most of these accounts escape the wrath of those they mock by clearly identifying themselves as satirical, rather than purporting to be the real deal. Those that fail to do so, however, run the risk of being held to account for misrepresentation.
Owners of such accounts would do well to remember that in light of recent events reported by Ars Technica. Police officers raided a home in Peoria, Illinois, this week in an effort to identify the creator of a parody account that mocked the town’s mayor.
The @PeoriaMayor account was apparently created in February, and included a photo of Mayor Jim Ardis, along with a bio describing his job, and his email address. It was not until a couple of weeks later that the bio was updated to clarify that it was a parody account. The tweets themselves are said to have included numerous references to sex and drug-taking.
The account has since been suspended, but the Peoria Journal Star claims that it had as few as fifty followers when it was still active.
Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard confirmed that an investigation was ongoing into the creator of the account, for suspected impersonation of a public official – an offence that may incur a maximum fine of $2500, along with up to a year in jail.
Three residents were detained for questioning, while two others were picked up by police at their workplaces before being taken to Peoria’s police station. Police reportedly seized a number of phones and computers from the property.
Michelle Pratt told the Journal Star that she was in the shower when police arrived with a search warrant. “They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it,” she said. “They brought me in like I was a criminal.” She also claimed that she spent over three hours in an interview room on her own before finally being questioned.
No arrests were made regarding the Twitter account, but Pratt’s boyfriend, who also lives at the property, was held on charges relating to marijuana possession.