4 Comments

Summary:

Did a local politician send the police to raid the house of someone who was using Twitter to mock him?

Getty Images
photo: Getty Images

Police carried out a raid on a home in Peoria, Illinois, in an attempt to unmask the person behind a Twitter account that lampooned the town’s mayor, according to a report in the Peoria Journal Star.

A 27-year-old woman, who was one of three people in the house at the time of the raid, told the news outlet that the police seized every electronics item in the house, asked her about the Twitter account and told her an “internet crime” had taken place. Her boyfriend was reportedly charged with possession of marijuana.

The account in question, @peoriamayor, showed a photo and official contact information of the town mayor, Jim Ardis, but published a stream of tweets about prostitutes, drinking and drugs that would be more befitting of the mayor of Toronto. The account has reportedly been suspended for several weeks.

In response to phone inquiries, staff at the mayor’s office in Peoria confirmed that a city lawyer had prepared a search warrant, but declined to offer further details about the reasons for the raid, including if the search was related to marijuana or, as the electronics seizure suggests, to the Twitter account.

The news report, if accurate, is troubling since there is no reason a police raid would be justified to seize a parody Twitter account  — the mayor’s office could have instead issued a subpoena to Twitter to identify the person behind the account, and pressed charges against them (though on what grounds it would be hard to state). It’s also unclear why a parody account that did not use the mayor’s name was suspended.

A person at Twitter, who did not want to be identified, said that the company does not comment on individual account suspensions, but said that Twitter looks at the “whole picture” to decide if an account if someone is unfairly impersonating someone else. That’s why a clear parody such as the beloved @elbloombito account for New York’s former mayor Mike Bloomberg was acceptable, but a clear impersonation of the Peoria mayor might not be.

Further details will likely be set out in the search warrant, which is not yet available online.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Nikohl Vandel Thursday, April 17, 2014

    thank you orson wells.
    i see why someone was lampooning that mayor. anyone with real authority wouldn’t need extraconstitutional powers and a police state … but our only real recourse is the Feds, as if they will do something about this kinda system in operation?!!! do we dare hope for our Republic that way?!

  2. the mayor’s office could of instead issued a subpoena to Twitter to identify the person behind the account, and pressed charges against them (though on what grounds it would be hard to state). It’s also unclear why a parody account that did not use the mayor’s name was suspended.

    ‘could have’ but would have been exceeding the authority of the office of mayor.

    pressed charges against him (the person).

    Someone making a threat on the internet against the President does not need to name the President; and the Peoria mayor would not have to be named, either. BUT … no threat had been made. The account had been suspended. It’s more of a person abusing his office because he didn’t like the fact that someone was making fun of him. Before this police raid was made, very few people knew what a d-bag the mayor is. Now everyone who can read this knows.

  3. 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.wordpress.com/2011/11/raphael-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.

  4. john wessley harden Monday, April 21, 2014

    Nice full kit out. Even NV’s. Though its day time so they don’t work. But boy, do you good old boys look tuff. We all know them paradoy account Twitter users are dangerous. Sooner or later this type of heavy handed bullying is going to get them what they deserve.

Comments have been disabled for this post