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Man Arrested for Creating Fake Facebook Page for Parma City Police

There are scores of parody accounts and pages on Facebook, but rarely do they land the creator in this much hot water. Impersonating a police officer is illegal pretty much worldwide, but impersonating a police department's Facebook page? It's kind of a grey area, but evidently not enough to keep Antony Novak from getting convicted over in Ohio.

Novak is accused of creating a page for the Parma City Police, and using it to post "inflammatory" and "derogatory" content. It's hard to argue with them on that count, one of the posts seemingly offered free abortions to teens as an 'experiment', whilst another advertised a test for prospective officers that said ethnic minorities "need not apply". It's difficult to determine exactly what possessed Novak to make the page in the first place - the humor seems a lot more acerbic than a simple parody page, but I imagine he's regretting his decision now.

The page had been running since March the 2nd before the real Parma police department caught wind of it, reached out to Facebook and arrested Novak on Friday. The page has since been deleted. The only distinction between it and the real one is the 'The' at the beginning of the URL on the satirical page (and the blindingly obvious ridiculousness of the actual posts). Funny thing is though, since Novak's arrest, more parody pages have started to emerge by way of protest, and it's unclear whether or not the minds behind them will also face arrest.

The source of the protest is easy to identify - it's not illegal to make a parody page on Facebook, and merely arresting Novak for that would constitute a First Amendment violation. What the department claims is that the information Novak was posting constituted a legitimate risk to public safety.

I can't help but be reminded of the Ebola meth story from earlier in the week. Police are more than happy to post 'jokes' about meth being infected with Ebola, and then act all surprised when people actually turn up to get their drugs tested, but when somebody decides to satirise a police department with talk of free abortion funding and claims that it's illegal to help the homeless, suddenly it's dangerous. Novak may well still be acquitted, but whatever happens, this has raised some interesting questions about the line between satire and misinformation.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Man Arrested for Creating Fake Facebook Page for Parma City Police Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, March 31, 2016 Rating: 5

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