Twitter parodist accused of libel, hacking

In a case thast could significantly impact the future of Twitter parody accounts, a spoof account is being accused of posting “numerous false and defamatory statements.” 

Mar 3, 2020, 4:06 am*



Kris Holt

A Twitter parodist has been accused of libel after impersonating the head of a U.K. newspaper publisher.

Northcliffe Media Ltd. accused the spoofer, referred to as John Doe in the civil lawsuit, of creating and/or running at least three Twitter accounts used to post “numerous false and defamatory statements” about the company and its employees.

Northcliffe claimed he disclosed information that was “obtained by unlawful means” and used to “deliberately and maliciously harass” CEO Steve Auckland and other employees.

Furthermore, the suit claimed he obtained private information (adding that the only way it believed he could do so was by hacking into a Northcliffe email account), shared sensitive information about employees’ personal lives, and “used the name and/or image of [Auckland]” to impersonate him. The company added that his tweets caused its employees to “fear for their safety.”

Northcliffe is seeking a jury trial in the complaint, which accuses the defendant of computer fraud and abuse, computer data access and fraud, and defamation.

It’s unclear exactly where the parodist lives, though the case falls under the jurisdiction of Northern California, since tweets were sent to “electronic communications servers located in the Northern District of California, such as Twitter’s servers.”

Northcliffe previously subpoenaed Twitter to hand over the user’s personal details. A lawyer based in California is representing the user pro-bono as he attempts to quash the subpoena by the Aug. 1 deadline.

“My legal counsel is preparing a motion to quash the subpoena,” the parodist wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “I do, of course, deny all accusations of illegal conduct set out in this document.”

The man behind the @UnSteveDorkland spoof account noted that a previous account was shut down for not being clear enough that it was a parody. Whatever the outcome, this case could have a significant impact on the future of Twitter parody accounts.

Photo by steakpinball

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*First Published: Jul 30, 2012, 4:32 pm