Social Media

Tweet of Power

Fake account offense

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Having a sense of humor evidently isn't a qualification to be mayor. Peoria, Illinois, resident Jon Daniel found that out the hard way after creating a fake Twitter account that made fun of the city's mayor, Jim Ardis.

Since the account initially portrayed itself as authentically belonging to Ardis, the mayor claimed that Daniel was falsely impersonating a public official. Within hours of discovering the offending account-which had an audience of just 50 followers-Ardis instructed the police to track down the tweeter. The investigation continued even after the account stopped producing new tweets. Cops eventually figured out it was Daniel, raided and ransacked his home, confiscated his possessions, arrested his friends for marijuana possession, and hauled him off to jail to face charges.

It was difficult to believe that anyone could have actually mistaken the fake account-which occasionally tweeted profane, nonsensical messages-for the real thing. Some Twitter users created additional parody accounts to mock Ardis in a show of solidarity.

Eventually, state authorities decided not to press charges against Daniel-and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on Daniel's behalf against the mayor, his city manager, the chief of police, and various other Peoria government officials, arguing that their collective efforts violated Daniel's First and Fourth Amendment rights.

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