A Twitter user is facing jail time in Chile after a powerful business mogul accused him of identity theft for creating parody accounts on the microblogging site.
Attorney Rodrigo Ferrari Prieto was charged [es] on February 19, 2013 as the man behind the now inactive @losluksic, @andronicoluksic, and @luksicandronicoparody Twitter accounts, which mocked Chilean business tycoon Andrónico Luksic [es] and his familiy [es].
If convicted, Ferrari Prieto could face up to a year and a half in prison.
According to Luksic's lawyer, the Twitter user not only published tweets under his client's persona, but also published personal pictures and made inappropriate comments that damaged his image.
Digital rights activists have said the case is a violation of online freedom of expression. For his part, Ferrari Prieto has said that he is only responsible for the @losluksic account – with an avatar that featured money raining down and a description that read, “we have tons of money” – and that it was part of a joke and therefore should not be considered a crime.
Adding to the controversy, a key element in the investigation that led authorities to the owner of the account's identity was, according to the prosecution, an international request sent to the United States State Department asking them to mediate so that Twitter would deliver the information of the account owner and its IP.
Luksic became a trending topic on Twitter in Chile after news of the formal charges against Ferrari Prieto broke.
Journalist and radio host Nacho Lira (@nacholira) [es] pointed out:
User Sed Non Satiata (@mysickness) [es] made a comment regarding President Sebastián Piñera, who is a common target of Twitter jokes:
Twitter user @elquenoaporta [es] jested that if the mogul became angry enough, he could end the problem by buying Twitter:
@elquenoaporta: El viejo podría irse en volá, hacerle una transferencia a Jack y cerrar esto. Digo, la billetera le da. Del terror.
@elquenoaporta: The old man could overreact and make a transfer to Jack to put an end to this. I'm just saying his wallet has enough cash. Terrifying.
Journalist and photographer Autherpen (@Autherpen) [es] spoke ironically of the case since it involves a businessman with a hand in the media industry:
Journalist Felipe Bianchi (@bianchileiton) [es] condemned that users defended Rodrigo Ferrari:
@bianchileiton: Me perdí. ¿En serio para algunos el tema es la plata de Luksic y no el delincuente que lo suplanta? tamos claritos
@bianchileiton: I'm lost. Really, for some people the issue is Luksic's money and not the criminal who impersonates him? We are clear.
Others, like lawyer Luis Mariano Rendón (@lmrendon) [es] remembered the scandal [es] in which Luksic was accused of asking for a judicial favor from Vladimiro Montesinos, intelligence adviser of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. Rendón wrote sarcastically:
@lmrendon: Q barbaridad !! Manchar el nombre de una persona tan honorable como Luksic !! Se acuerdan de los vladivideos?http://www.economiaynegocios.cl/especiales/caso_lucchetti/index.htm …
@lmrendon: Outrageous !! Tarnishing the name of such an honorable person like Luksic !! Do you remember the vladivideos? http://www.economiaynegocios.cl/especiales/caso_lucchetti/index.htm …
Lawyer Claudio Ruiz from the nonprofit online human rights organization Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights), and member of the defense team, commented on the case on FayerWayer [es]:
“atenta contra el ejercicio de la libertad de expresión. Hoy cualquier tipo de cuenta en Internet que intenta ser una sátira de una figura pública constituiría un delito de usurpación de identidad. Este caso se mantiene sólo porque se trata de Andrónico Luksic” [...]
Un caso como el de Rodrigo no habría llegado a juicio jamás en Estados Unidos, Twitter no habría entregado la información, porque sólo la otorgan con una orden judicial. No lo hizo con WikiLeaks, o sea, ése es el estándar que tienen” [...]
En definitiva, lo que se obtuvo fue una dirección IP desde donde se conectaba la cuenta @losluksic, lo que de todos modos podría ser cuestionable, porque una IP puede ser utilizada por diferentes personas
“it puts in danger freedom of expression. Today, any type of Internet account that intends to be a satire of a public figure would be consider an identity theft felony. This case is only viable because it's about Andrónico Luksic” [...]
A case like Rodrigo's would have never reached the court in the United States, Twitter would've not handed in the information, because they only give it away with a judicial order. They didn't do it with WikiLeaks [es], so you can see the standard they have [...]
In conclusion, what they obtained was an IP address where @losluksic logged in, which in any case could be questionable because an IP can be used by several persons.
This is not the first time that Andrónico Luksic has intervened in matters of freedom of expression on the Internet and offline. Only a week ago, news broke of the blocking of a YouTube video [es] with an extract of the book “Impunidad Diplomática” (Diplomatic Impunity) by Francisco Martorell – the video is supposedly available now on Vimeo [es] – due to a Chilean court order. The book, published in 1993, talks about scandals that involved the Argentinean ambassador in those days and important Chilean politicians and businessmen, Luksic being among them.
“Diplomatic Impunity” never reached Chilean bookstores – even after the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights considered the fact a violation of the American Convention – also thanks to a legal resource the tycoon presented that was afterwards confirmed by the Supreme Court. The YouTube blocking is also relevant because its the first recorded case of content censorship by Chilean Courts on this social platform.
Luksic Group [es] controls companies from diverse industries such as mining, forest, finance, food and mass media and its fortune is said to be $17.8 billion dollars.