The anonymous satirist behind spoof Twitter account @UnSteveDorkland faces four criminal charges in a Californian court for making fun of a Daily Mail group executive.
@UnSteveDorkland has been charged for computer fraud and abuse, data access and fraud and for defamation and online impersonation - all for a series of tweets that joke about the working practices of Steve Auckland, the CEO at Northcliffe Media, the Daily Mail and General Trust's local paper wing.
Northcliffe took the case to California because Twitter is based there, and the media firm is demanding a jury trial. The charges follow a subpoena two weeks ago to unmask the identity of the spoofer.
The nine-page complaint filed today alleges simultaneously that the tweets contain information that is false, and information that is private and thus could only be accessed by computer hacking.
The case claims that the tweets revealed private information that could only have come from unauthorised access to a computer system.
The complaint argues for damages due to the injury to the plaintiff's reputation and further punitive damages due to the "malice, oppression and fraud" in the nature of the tweets.
The case also claims that the plaintiff's employees mentioned in the tweets were caused to fear for their safety as the tweets made them feel like they were under surveillance.
Beyond the reputational damage, the document argues that there were costs associated with the computer fraud charges - with $5,000 for example spent on repatching the system that the defendant had allegedly breached.
@UnSteveDorkland has until tomorrow to object to a motion from Northcliffe demanding that Twitter unmask the anonymous account.
The case has raised hackles about the status of satire and spoof accounts on Twitter – of which there are many:
@LizJonesSomalia, for example, takes off another employee of DMGT, Daily Mail columnist and professional moaning minnie Liz Jones. ®