Northcliffe Media drops attempt to unmask Twitter parodist

The newspaper publisher won't pursue further action against the anonymous man behind @unstevedorkland, a Twitter parody of CEO Steve Auckland.

Mar 3, 2020, 3:56 am*



Kris Holt

U.K. newspaper publisher Northcliffe Media has dropped efforts to find out the identity of the person parodying CEO Steve Auckland on Twitter.

Northcliffe, a regional publisher owned by the Daily Mail, had subpoenaed Twitter to discover the identity of the man behind @unstevedorkland, though it withdrew its complaint and subpoena Thursday after an attempt to quash the court order.

Twitter was set to hand over all information it had on the man to Northcliffe by Wednesday, but that was delayed when a lawyer acting on the spoofer’s behalf filed a motion in a Northern California court to block the subpoena.

Northcliffe also lodged a complaint accusing the man of libel and suggesting he’d hacked into a company email account.

“This has been a shameful and unnecessary action by Northcliffe Media,” the anonymous parodist told the Guardian. “The management of Northcliffe Media should be spending its time, resources and attention on supporting, protecting and developing its loyal and hard-working staff, rather than attempting to suggest my tweets were in any way affecting morale or performance of the company.”

Northcliffe confirmed to the paper that it had waved the white flag in its bid to unmask @unstevedorkland, though a spokeswoman claimed the legal action was less about freedom of speech than a “barrage of anonymous tweets that amounted to cyber-bullying and harassment.”

She added that while the man may have intended his tweets to be humorous, “these tweets went far beyond commentary and satire, causing pain and offence.”

Northcliffe backed down because further attempts to work through the court system “would require direct involvement of the very staff we are anxious to protect,” according to the spokeswoman. A hearing had been set for September prior to Northcliffe’s withdrawal.

In its complaint, Northcliffe accused the spoofer of computer fraud and abuse, computer data access and fraud, and defamation. The man denied those allegations.

The spoofer thanked those who supported him. Once he heard the news of Northcliffe’s decision, he tweeted: “We won.” Some Twitter users called it a victory for free speech.

The parodist suggested he may now continue doing what caused all this commotion in the first place: poking fun at Auckland.

Photo by nanny snowflake

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*First Published: Aug 3, 2012, 11:29 am