A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Eric Fehrnstrom

New Politics: Fake Twitter Accounts

By Lauren Luptak

As politics in the upcoming presidential election heats up, politicians are creating new and inventive ways of campaigning – they are taking politics to the Internet. Innovation doesn’t come without pitfalls, however. Eric Fehrnstrom, a strategist for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and Scott Brown’s 2012 Senate campaign in Massachusetts, was recently discovered to be the author of a nasty Twitter account, @CrazyKhazei, that poked fun at reporters covering Massachusetts politics and mocked a Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts Senate race, Alan Khazei.

The story broke in late August, posted first by the Blue Mass Group and then picked up by the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. Senator Brown immediately claimed that he was unaware of Mr. Fehrnstrom’s tweeting and ordered the Twitter account to be shut down (which it has been), but the damage was already done.

Mr. Fehrnstrom’s identity was uncovered when he accidentally tweeted an @CrazyKhazei tweet from his personal Twitter account, @EricFehrn. Many of the @CrazyKhazei tweets were distasteful and inappropriate. Although reporters came down hard on him, and one blogger even accused Mr. Fehrnstrom of cyberbullying, he seemed unapologetic and unruffled and in an email, sent August 24, 2011, to the Boston Globe wrote, “Sometimes we take our politics too seriously and this was my way of lightening things up,” followed by a blasé “if you can’t stand the tweet, get out of the kitchen.”

Although there has been expansive media coverage, no one has yet addressed the important legal question arising from this situation. What—if any—are the legal consequences for pretending to be someone else on Twitter?   (more…)

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