US mayor cracks down on Twitter satire

A US mayor has decided to use his police force to attack anyone who mocks him on Twitter.

According to the Peoria Journal Star in Illinois, seven members of the Peoria Police Department executed a search warrant yesterday in order to discover the identity of someone operating a fake Twitter account that parodied Peoria mayor Jim Ardis.

The police confiscated all the mobile phones and computers in the house. Three people at the home were brought into the police department for questioning and two members of the household that were working at the time were picked up by police from their jobs and taken to the station.

The @peoriamayor Twitter account has been suspended.

Apparently, the account had tweeted about 50 times and clearly stated that it was a joking parody account as opposed to a direct impersonation. The account had about 50 followers, possibly some locals in the area, and used a profile shot of the mayor. The tweets referred to sex and drugs while comparing Ardis with the now-infamous Rob Ford, the outlandish mayor of Toronto.

What is alarming is that the whole case is being treated as an internet crime.

According to Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard, officers have been seeking the creator and operator of the parody Twitter account in order to charge that person with “false personation of a public official”. Clearly if the coppers are going to interpret the law that way then that could result in the entire cast of Saturday Night Live being banged up.

Settingsgaard said that he did not think that that it was obvious that the site was satire and in fact it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor.

If he is right, then the definition of satire and humour would be decided by a US cop, which is worrying because they are probably the least funny humans on the planet and in a land not famous for understanding irony.

The cops are hiring “forensic guys” to find who was running the site so that will be money well spent.

Ardis should be concerned with the expense of flexing his legal muscles this way. Since 2010, he has been Executive Director of Corporate Strategies for Axis, which is part of Jupiter Strategic Technologies of Bangalore. As an Axis boss he packed local jobs of to India for cost reductions.

It is not as if he has to worry that the Twitter parody would do him any harm politically. No-one stood against him in the last election and before that he won 90 percent of the vote.