Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 11, 2012

Fake political Tweets lead to police investigation

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Twitter accounts that satirize local politicians are causing a dust storm in this East Texas city, and state police are investigating who's behind them.

Twitter accounts with handles such as @PhonyDonJohnson and @FakeKeithOlson spoof the inner-thoughts of eight of nine City Council members, including Mayor Mac Woodward. The accounts satirize comments made in meetings and voting records. Some ridicule councilors' religion and personal histories, or suggest sexual tension between City Council members.

Most are labeled as phony or declare themselves unaffiliated with actual elected officials. The most popular accounts -- with more than 100 "followers" each -- are the Twitter doppelgängers of At-large Councilor Keith Olson and Mayor Pro Tem Don Johnson, both of whom face opponents in the Nov. 6 election.

Created in July 2011, the account with the handle @FakeKeithOlson declares in its profile: "I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed." He gets a separate account that animates his facial hair, @OlsonMustache.

The @PhonyDonJohnson account declares in its profile he "does his part everyday to look out for his own best interest."

Johnson said he is “frustrated” by the accounts, which he described as vulgar and immoral. “But I don’t know what you can do about them,” he said.

Olson said the tweets recall a negative political atmosphere of the city's past.

“I think they are tasteless, they show poor judgment and poor character," he said. "(But) I can’t say whether they’re illegal."

Satirical accounts are commonplace on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform where users express themselves in bursts of 140 characters or less. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has several phony Twitter accounts. The @PimpBillClinton account reports more than 284,000 followers, and @Queen_UK has nearly 1 million.

Walker County District Attorney David Weeks -- himself the target of a spoof account @DavidWeePeeks -- said he's heard complaints from several City Council members and asked the Texas Rangers to investigate.

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