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.