There’s been a surprising amount of litigation over political parody accounts on Twitter, from a lawsuit against Peoria, IL mayor Jim Ardis in 2014 (after Ardis dispatched local police to raid a house where the man operating the account lived) that led to a $125,000 settlement from the city to federal congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) suing the @DevinCow account last year. And while there have been plenty of parody accounts that have popped up in sports, they haven’t led to as much litigation. There’s at least one prominent case of that now, though, with former NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France (who took an indefinite leave from those roles after being arrested for DWI and oxycodone possession in August 2018, then was officially replaced by uncle Jim France on an interim basis in September 2018 and on a full-time basis in February 2019) suing the “Drunken Brian France” parody Twitter account (which was created in February 2014, long before France’s DWI case). Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal has more on that:
➖ The complaint accuses the person of falsely impersonating France and causing damage to him. pic.twitter.com/UuEtwtiZMZ
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) March 5, 2020
Meanwhile, the account itself had some notable responses:
Oh and how does that Go Fund Me stuff work?
— Drunken Brian France (@DrunkBrianF) March 5, 2020
It will be interesting to see where this goes. In the @NunesCow case, Twitter filed a motion to dismiss in January, but they were specifically listed as a defendant in that case; it’s unclear if the France lawsuit includes them or not. Even if they’re not explicitly named as a defendant, though, it would seem hard for France (seen above ahead of the Ford Ecoboost 400 in 2016) to find whoever operates @DrunkBrianF without cooperation from Twitter (either voluntary or court-mandated). And so far, action against parody Twitter accounts hasn’t worked out all that well, and it’s notable that public figures like France tend to face a higher standard (“actual malice,” as laid down in NY Times v. Sullivan and Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts) for defamation cases. So we’ll see how this works out for him. But it’s certainly a notable action, and it has some other parody account operators apparently worried.
I’m in danger https://t.co/juTNgkgJOC
— Stephen A. Smith Burner (@SASBurnerAcct) March 5, 2020
[Adam Stern on Twitter]