Questionable Court Order Says Twitter Must Reveal Owner Of Political Parody Account

from the that's-not-how-it-works dept

Here's another wacky one involving some parody Twitter accounts. Apparently some local aldermen (city council) in Starkville, Mississippi have become upset about some parody accounts on Twitter. One of them, David Little, filed a police complaint leading to a wacky investigation that appears to include a police detective setting up a fake Twitter account himself, claiming to be a reporter, and asking the guy behind one of the parody accounts to call him -- giving out the known phone number of the detective. Either way, the police then went to court, and stunningly got Judge Jim Kitchens to order Twitter to reveal who's behind the parody accounts. That's not how it's supposed to work. Anonymity and parody are protected forms of speech, and just because you have a local official who doesn't like being parodied doesn't mean that a court can just order the person unmasked. There's a long string of First Amendment cases that note that anonymity should be strongly protected.

The law that is used to claim this unmasking is legit is one focused on outlawing real impersonation, not parody. And as Adam Steinbaugh explains, the order is almost certainly a violation of the First Amendment, and seems to twist the local statute (which is also written too broadly in the first place). The whole thing is a mess, basically, where it appears you have local politicians who can't handle being parodied, a bizarre "investigation" into the accounts, combined with a judge who signs off on a First Amendment-defying order. What a complete mess. Thankfully, it sounds like a bunch of lawyers are jumping in and offering to help out whoever is behind those parody accounts.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Wolfy, 4 Sep 2013 @ 4:49pm

    Attention to the first sentence in the second paragraph is needed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Pixelation, 4 Sep 2013 @ 7:34pm

    In other news, Starksville wakes up to find there is a great big world outside of its borders. So sad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    TheLastCzarnian (profile), 4 Sep 2013 @ 9:03pm

    When you a fishin' buddy wit da judge, he'll do whuteva fo ya. An akarse it wodnt be good if you let slip about his girlfriend to his wife, o vise-versa...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Thomas (profile), 5 Sep 2013 @ 10:23am

    The courts..

    routinely ignore Constitutional protections these days, and the federal appeals let them get away with it since they do the same thing. No one should depend on Constitutional protection these days. This becomes more true as politicians and businesses bribe the courts (all the way to and including SCOTUS) to get the results they want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Mayor Rudy Wright, 18 Sep 2013 @ 2:42pm

    Sounds like something similar happening in small town Hickory, NC

    When does the First Amendment go too far? This parody account of Hickory, NC's mayor pulls no punches -

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.