Police raid home over Twitter parody account

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. 

Source: Ars Technica / Peoria Journal Star 

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For anyone who doesn't know you can't impersonate a public official, nor law enforcement officer. It's against the law, people do it for nefarious reasons. And I be she won't do it again and will find a more civilize way to protest.

Clearly most just take America for granted and enjoy living in it or receiving the benefits of it, but don't work to keep it somewhat civilized. To everyone talking trash from the outside, feel free to ask your national to refuse all American Financial and Military aid. And when you start WWIII, don't call us.

In the US it varies by municipality what constitutes impersonation, and the resulting punishment could be a "Hey, knock it off", to whatever.

Hahaiah said,
"impersonate" is arguable here. This is simply an elected official using his power to go after someone.
send me a photo,your real name and address so i can make a fake twitter account pretending to be you and will post things that make it look like you are fighting and advocating strongly to make child porn legal in your area. This could devastate your future and the way people look at you. Even though it's not actually not true, the effects could be life changing.

insanelyapple said,
Actually, nobody wants You anywhere with Your troops that spread "democracy".

I agree with you completely. Most only want us after their Civil Genocides begin, the economy collapses, or starvation hits. Things of that nature. Feel free to go it alone after the next Tsunami, Civil War, whatever. It's easy to talk trash after others have kept the world reasonably at peace. America and it's Allies are all good people, we feed the world more than we feed our own poor it seems like. But keep fantasizing, you have to take your frustrations out on someone for your condition. Why not America?

rippleman said,
send me a photo,your real name and address so i can make a fake twitter account pretending to be you and will post things that make it look like you are fighting and advocating strongly to make child porn legal in your area. This could devastate your future and the way people look at you. Even though it's not actually not true, the effects could be life changing.

Of course I wouldn't like it, but the POINT is YOU couldn't send an alphabet agency goon squad after me now could you?

Hahaiah said,

Of course I wouldn't like it, but the POINT is YOU couldn't send an alphabet agency goon squad after me now could you?

if someone, with your picture and identity, were live tweeting "I am doing drugs and with an under-age prostitute", anyone can get the cops to come to your door. No political power needed at all. All it takes is a report.

rippleman said,
if someone, with your picture and identity, were live tweeting "I am doing drugs and with an under-age prostitute", anyone can get the cops to come to your door. No political power needed at all. All it takes is a report.

Was that actually what the guy tweeted?

Yeah totally understand where you're coming from, they're trying to protect those individuals who were taken advantage of. but sad world we live in when our on-line identities now merge with reality. people are WAY to sensitive these days. damn.

I think they were trying to make a point. Put an end to this type of nonsense, that's against the law even, before it becomes a seriously problematic epidemic. Extending our laws to cyberspace and Social Media is going to take a huge effort. I absolutely see the point in taking an opportunity like this to send a BS ending message.

I think the end result looked like a failure. They busted in to some suburban FAMILY home, probably scaring the hell out of everyone that was detained and they couldn't even charge the guy with anything. They took personal electronics and hurt the family reputation. The worst they could do was bust some other guy for possession. They didn't even have any real grounds for breaking into the house.

Its just a mayor who is reckless with power.... probably something similar to what the tweets said. Now even more people know about the mayors problems. Yeah the mayor got his way, but now he looks like an un-trust worthy person.

Being a cyber bully is not a reason to bust into a home.

I believe the majority of the country would agree we have lost enough rights and we don't need the internet policed. Just saying "N.S.A." is enough for people to agree with me. Having cops watch what I tweet is a waste of tax money.

tytytucke said,
Being a cyber bully is not a reason to bust into a home.

If you're bullying under your own identity, I agree. If you're impersonating a public official or law enforcement and it is a crime in your jurisdiction, then yes. FWIW, I think they knocked on the door, not bust into the home.

>>while two others were picked up by police at their workplaces
>>police arrived with a search warrant.

In addition, the impersonated tweets discussed possibly illegal activity by a public official (taking drugs.)

Just accept the fact that we have laws and you have to follow them whether you like it or not. If you don't like them, we have a process for changing them. Something not all societies have.

There's actually nothing surprising about Twitter parodists being viciously tracked down by the police, because if we don't speak up for everybody's rights, we better be ready for our own rights to be trampled on when we least expect it. It starts with criminalizing deadpan satire in the form of "Gmail confessions," and from there it moves to criminalizing Twitter parodies. See the documentation of America's leading criminal-satire case at:

http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

and consider, in particular, the NACDL's statement that if certain individuals "feel aggrieved by online speech with academic value, they have remedies in tort," rather than in criminal courts.

http://raphaelgolbtrial.files....phael-golb-amicus-brief.pdf

The "Gmail confession" case, despite being widely reported on in the press, has been ignored by nearly every legal commentator in the country, so it's not at all surprising that the police now feel free to go after the creators of Twitter accounts embarrassing to wealthy and powerful members of the community, whether they be politicians, university presidents, or anyone else ordinary people might choose to mimic and mock on the Internet.

When I read this I thought 'must be America'

In the UK at least it is specifically enshrined in law that parody is a protected form of comedy

So, am I the only one here who thinks some of these 'parody' twitter accounts cross the line, and they should be discouraged?

Sais said,
So, am I the only one here who thinks some of these 'parody' twitter accounts cross the line, and they should be discouraged?

Depends, how seriously should we take Twitter? It's not a reliable news source, it's a glorified message board.

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