“There’s got to be a statute out there somewhere…”
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When news broke that the mayor of Peoria, Illinois, had called upon his town’s police force to shut down a fake Twitter account opened in his name; that local police had responded with search warrants against Twitter, Comcast, and Google; that they had at last raided a local home and seized four iPhones, four computers, two Xbox game consoles, an iPad, and a “large gold gift bag with five sandwich bags containing a green leafy substance;” that the homeowner hadn’t created the account but was ultimately suspended from his job as a result of that “green leafy substance;” that Peoria’s next city council meeting descended into outright acrimony over the heavy-handedness of the entire episode; and that the entire episode turned out to be a colossal waste of time and resources in which no one but the pot owner was ever charged with a crime—well, that’s the moment at which a curious reporter files a public records act request to get a glimpse of how such a trainwreck got underway.
So I filed one—and the backstory I found was fascinating.
Could your town’s mayor spark a police investigation into your activities that ends with town cops rifling through your mobile phone, your laptop, and the full contents of your Gmail account—all over an alleged misdemeanor based on something you wrote on social media? Not in America, you say? But you’d be wrong. Here, based on e-mail records provided by the city of Peoria to Ars Technica, is what that sort of investigation looks like.
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