Police in Miami Beach have arrested a local man who ran a Twitter account that parodied their department’s spokesperson.
Ars Technica reports that Miami Beach resident Ernesto Orsetti has been charged with a third-degree felony after he set up a Twitter parody account that purported to be of Ernesto Rodriguez, the spokesman for the Miami Beach Police Department.
Miami Beach police arrested Orsetti and charged him with impersonating a police officer despite the fact that Twitter had already suspended his account just prior to his arrest.
“The behavior here was outrageous. It threatened to damage the reputation of our superb Public Information Officer, as well as the Miami Beach Police Department brand,” Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel J. Oates said in a statement. “We simply can’t tolerate such an impersonation, and I am glad Mr. Orsetti will now be held accountable.”
The department alleges that Orsetti was interacting with local officials on social media as though he were Rodriguez, although it offers no specific examples to show how Orsetti was damaging the department’s reputation.
Ars Technica notes that local governments’ histories of suing parody social media accounts has in the past backfired and hurt those governments’ reputations.
“Something similar happened back in 2014, when police in Peoria, Illinois, arrested a man for impersonating the town’s mayor on Twitter,” the publication explains. “The man (Jon Daniel) sued the city with the help of the ACLU and argued that the arrest violated his First Amendment rights. Ultimately, the city was forced to pay $125,000 to settle the case.”