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Fake Twitter account of US mayor sparks police raid

Published time: April 18, 2014 10:47
Reuters/Eric Thayer

Reuters/Eric Thayer

A fake Twitter feed made to look like it belonged to Peoria’s mayor prompted a police raid. The account was flagged up by police for tweeting about sex, drugs and the exploits of ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford who admitted to smoking crack last year.

What started off as an internet prank led to a raid and several people being questioned in Peoria, Illinois. Police launched a probe in the town in connection with a phony Twitter account that was created under the name of the mayor, Jim Ardis.

Twitter initially suspended the account earlier this year, but a case was opened because impersonating a public official is a criminal offense punishable with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

In connection with the case, police in Peoria burst into a house on Tuesday, seizing phones, computers and arresting three individuals. One of the people brought in for question was eventually charged with possession of marijuana.

“They brought me in like I was a criminal,” said Michelle Pratt, a 27-year-old resident who was in the shower when officers arrived at the house, to AP.

The local police force said they do not have any suspects at the present time, but they have reason to believe the perpetrator lives in the area.

“We’re just still in investigation mode and don’t have a suspect in custody,” said Lieutenant Willie King to the LA Times. “We have a couple of forensic guys that do this type of crime investigation. If they come up with things, we look into them.”

The Twitter account in question had around 50 tweets as well as 50 followers. Some of the Tweets that had been posted contained references to sex and drugs and the antics of disgraced, former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford who admitted to smoking crack whilst “in a drunken stupor” last November.

Twitter allows parody accounts to be created and used, but clearly states in its user policy that there must be a clear mention on the account showing it is a hoax. The phony account reportedly used a picture of the Peoria mayor and neglected to mention the page was in fact a fake.

Comments (8)

 

Quixote 19.04.2014 20:38

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" mocking a well-connected university department chairman, and from there it moves to criminalizing Twitter parodies. See the documentation of America's leading criminal-satire case on the "Raphael Golb Trial" website.

 

Shlep Rocker 18.04.2014 23:16

We know someone, under 21, that was arrested the other night... pulled over for a warrant for his arrest. Why? They said they received 2 anonymous reports that he was manufacturing meth. He lives with his mother, and was not. So, how did they get a warrant based on 2 phone calls and no investigation? I thought that was illegal. I've seen the first 48 show and even for crimes, like murder, an eyewitness doesn't even get you a warrant. Maybe a talking to to see how far they can go, but they can't get a warrant. This is crazy.

 

Odzer Chenma 18.04.2014 19:47

Someone picks up a phone, calls one of their pals, and they raid the wrong house. It's interesting how our politicians and law enforcement think they work for one another and have a right to terrorize innocent people. What was their probable cause? Beyond that, it's creepy that they're monitoring accounts that are parodies. I personally am more concerned about local police departments than I am about NSA. I have not heard of one instance where the NSA was involved in something like this. And we would hear: ACLU and everyone and their mother is waiting in ambush.

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