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Parody Accounts Are Protected Speech, Experts Say

April 18, 2014


PEORIA – A police raid of a West Bluff home seeking the author of a parody Twitter account about Mayor Jim Ardis was an intrusive, overly aggressive tactic that targeted a form of protected speech.

Several scholars and attorneys who specialize in First Amendment rights around the country questioned the pursuit of criminal charges for a fake social media account two days after plainclothes police executed a search warrant at 1220 N. University St. and seized several electronic devices with Internet access.

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Jeremy Mishkin, co-chair of the litigation department at the law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads in Philadelphia, added one caveat. He cautioned that the format of entries on Twitter could leave doubt as to the intent of the content creator.

“Parody depends on the reader understanding that it’s a joke – and that can be a very tricky matter with online communications,” Mishkin said. “Context matters a great deal, and Twitter’s 140-character limit makes context more difficult to establish.”

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