Social Media Fail
July 23, 2019

The police chief of Grenta, Louisiana, announced Monday that he had fired two police officers for violating the department's social media policy. One of the fired officers, Charlie Rispoli, posted on Facebook a parody news story about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with the comment: "This vile idiot needs a round ... and I don't mean the kind she used to serve." Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender, has "the IQ of a Chiclet," he added, according to a screenshot of Rispoli's post captured by The New Orleans Advocate. Grenta is a city of about 18,000 outside New Orleans.

The second fired officer, Angelo Varisco, "liked" Rispoli's post, said Grenta Police Chief Arthur Lawson. It's not clear if either officer understood that the linked article was fake, even though it identified itself as a parody site. The entire incident "has been an embarrassment" to his department, Lawson added. "These officers have certainly acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted against a sitting U.S. (congresswoman), a member of our government," and although he did not believe they made a credible threat, both officers had signed the department's social media policy and been warned about such posts.

Ripoli posted his perceived threat on Ocasio-Cortez amid President Trump's repeated attacks on her and three fellow Democratic freshmen congresswomen. On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the Grenta incident "is Trump's goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don't agree w/ his political agenda. It's authoritarian behavior."

In recent weeks, a series of reports have also shone a spotlight on racist, violent, and misogynistic posts by law enforcement. The nonprofit Plain View Project found such posts on the accounts of 3,500 current and former police officers in eight departments, and Philadelphia has suspended 72 of them, 13 of whom are slated to be fired. Lawson said he had sent all his officers new articles on those 72 Philadelphia Police officers. Peter Weber

October 9, 2018

On Sunday, Twitter user @BlueStarNavyMom3 decided to support new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with a post about her son, identified in the tweet only by his photograph. Before she deleted her account, #HimToo took off on Twitter, and not in the way she apparently intended.

"This is MY son," the No. 3 Blue Star Navy Mom wrote. "He is a gentleman who respects women. He won’t go on solo dates due to the current climate of false sexual accusations by radical feminists with an axe to grind. I VOTE. #HimToo." There were parodies posts starring serial killers, sitcom characters, Michael J. "Marty McFly" Fox, presidential sons, and others. And then a user named Jon Hanson — claiming to be the brother of the sailor, with photographic evidence — piped up Monday night and said their mom is "crazy" and his brother does go on solo dates.

Finally, Pieter Hanson learned he was trending on Twitter, created an account named @Thatwasmymom, and set the story straight.

Because this is social media, there's always a chance this is a really elaborate, very clever hoax. And because this is 2018, it probably isn't. Peter Weber

August 28, 2018

Maybe if Omar Navarro ever makes it to Congress, he can try to change the federal laws that prohibit impersonating a federal official and misusing a federal seal. In the meantime, he is scheduled to meet with the FBI on Wednesday to argue that he did nothing wrong by tweeting a forged letter purporting to be from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who he's running against in the midterms. The letter appears to be on stationery from Waters' House office and includes her signature and some inaccuracies about her committee assignments and other facts. Navarro, a Republican, posted it in December and the tweet is still up, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Navarro, a popular far-right media personality, said somebody sent his campaign the letter on Facebook and he didn't vet it before posting it to Twitter. "I don't know why they are looking into me since I'm not the one who fabricated the letter," Navarro told the Times on Monday. In the letter, the fake Waters discuses her plans to relocate 41,000 refugees in her district after the election, "and perhaps even once I have secured the speaker of the House position."

Waters, who is running for a 15th term, got 72 percent of the vote in California's top-two primary. Navarro came in second with 14 percent. Peter Weber

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