In a matter defined by the intersection of free speech and modern technology, the ACLU and the City of Peoria agreed yesterday to settle in a lawsuit dubbed “Twittergate” by media in Peoria.
The case involves Peoria native Jon Daniel who had his home raided, his property seized and was arrested after creating a Twitter account that parodied Peoria’s mayor. Mr. Daniel (pictured middle at right) will be awarded a cash settlement, and a directive from the City to the Peoria Police Department will make clear that parody and satire should never be the predicate for a criminal investigation. "Twittergate" began in March 2014, when Mr. Daniel created the Twitter account @peoriamayor. Created mainly for his own entertainment and the amusement of his friends, Mr. Daniel sent a series of tweets from the account – which he soon labeled parody – that used informal language, slang and expletives.
The Mayor of Peoria was not amused. He and members of city government, including police officers, worked to close the account, learn Mr. Daniel's identity and punish his speech with a criminal investigation, culminating in a search of Mr. Daniel’s home, the seizure of his property and placing Mr. Daniel under arrest.
This settlement marks an enormous victory for free speech, emphasizing our First Amendment protections for online speech and parody. We hope that this agreement will send a strong message that wrongful use of police power to suppress protected speech, even when it is critical or makes fun of public officials, is an abuse of power and is not acceptable.
Thank you for supporting our efforts to protect free speech.