A Parma, Ohio, man was arrested on Friday after posing as a police department on a fake Facebook page and making inflammatory comments.
The Cleveland Planner reports that on March 2, Anthony Novak, 27, allegedly created a parody account of the Parma Police Department that looked identical to the authentic page. Viewers were thrown off when the links shared didn't match the police department's official pages.The fraudulent Facebook page contained a series a fake links, including a "Pedophile Reform event" that offered sex offenders a chance to become a Parma police officer if they passed the test at the event. The page also offered offered free abortions to teenagers, in addition to writing that it's illegal to help the homeless, and anyone caught assisting them would be arrested.
The page also offered people a position on the Parma Police Department if they passed a hearing test, among other derogatory comments about the police.
"The test will consist of a 15 question multiple choice definition test followed by a hearing test. Should you pass you will be accepted as an officer of the Parma Police Department."The Parma police released a statement on March 2, warning people of the fake page.
"The Parma Police Department would like to warn the public that a fake Parma Police Facebook page has been created. This matter is currently being investigated by the Parma Police Department and Facebook. This is the Parma Police Department's official Facebook page. The public should disregard any and all information posted on the fake Facebook account."According to attorney David Brown, who's representing Novak, his client may be protected under The First Amendment. However, the lawyer also said was much too early in the case to know for sure, and that the case is "unusual."
"It's an unusual case."Lt. Kevin Riley of the Parma police said that even though he understands that people have the right to free speech and are legally able to express themselves, he thinks Novak took it much further than he should have, and that the posts were potentially dangerous.
"In this particular case, we believe the material that Novak posted on the fake account crossed the line from satire to an actual risk to public safety. We presented the facts of this case and the investigation to our law department and they agreed that Novak's actions were criminal in nature."Satire has been used for centuries as a way to invoke humor and make fun of people or places. It's an attack on folly and a way to criticize public figures, and although the First Amendment protects people who use satire, it may not protect them in instances such as slander, libel, and causing emotional distress. In the meantime, many Facebook users are questioning the police after Novak was arrested, writing that his rights were violated. One Facebook user wrote that the fake account was clearly satire and sarcasm, and that Novak's "Constitutional First Amendment rights" were violated. Another Facebook user agreed, writing that the Parma police "are obviously feckless, corrupt, & require a federal investigation into their practices of harassment & intimidation."
Other Facebook users disagreed and wrote that the First Amendment doesn't allow people to impersonate a person, much less a police department. Another Facebook user chimed in that Novak was out of line and that his arrest was justified.
Novak may face a felony charge of disrupting public services because of his satirical account. A grand jury will decide what charges, if any at all, that Anthony Novak will be charged with. He is due to appear at the Parma Municipal Court on Monday.
[Photo by the Pharma Police Department]