Free speech and what’s known as “qualified immunity,” as well as “overcriminalization” – expansion of the criminal code in the US to address even minor problems in society – is at the heart of a case that started in 2016 with a short-lived parody page Anthony Novak had set up on Facebook.
Novak was subsequently arrested and spent several days in jail – much longer than the lifespan of his page critical of the police in Parma, Ohio – a page that was up only 12 hours.
In addition, the police confiscated his phone and computer. His “crime” was the humor he was using to express his opinions about the local law enforcement: posts like one “advertising” free abortions performed in a police van, and an “event” under the motto, “Pedophile Reform.”
Some Facebook users complained – about ten of them according to court records – but that was enough for the police to go to the trouble of getting three warrants: to arrest Novak, search his apartment, and deal with Facebook. The charge was “using a computer to hinder police duties,” an accusation based on little-known (and in this case, a court eventually found, invoked incorrectly) state law.
Novak eventually had a jury trial that resulted in his acquittal. But he then went on to sue the officers who arrested him for violating his constitutional rights. However, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit did not support his claims.