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Austin 911! Fake police Twitter account gets busted

Microblogging site pulls down an account claiming to come from the Texas capital's police department after it started posting bizarre updates like "warming up my radar gun for SXSWi."

The cops on Comedy Central's 'Reno 911' are fake. So are the ones who ran the Twitter account @AustinPD, it appears.
Comedy Central

There's no more @AustinPD on Twitter. That's because it wasn't actually the official Twitter account of the Austin, Texas, police department, according to the Austin Statesman.

The link to the account now reads that it was "suspended for strange activity," and city authorities have asked Twitter to keep tabs on the impersonator's contact information after both the police department and Texas attorney general's office complained to Twitter. The Statesman added, however, that criminal charges are not being sought at this point.

"Although some may dismiss the site as a simple prank or minor irritant, the fact is that the information presented was false and misleading, and could lead to unwarranted concern by the public," Austin police chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.

"AustinPD" wasn't exactly a huge sensation on Twitter, with only about 450 followers. But it was enough to tick off the real cops, especially during the South by Southwest Festival, when all eyes were on Austin.

Updates from the fake Twitter account included "warming up my radar gun for SXSWi" and "we're looking to make more stops at SXSW this year than last," as well as references to police jargon codes that seemed to be stemming from a knowledge of gangsta rap lyrics rather than actual law enforcement.

The Austin Statesman reported that fake accounts are a very serious problem on Twitter: "Even taco trucks aren't safe: NPR reported Monday that the Los Angeles-based Mexican-Korean food joint Kogi has a Twitter doppelganger that posts fake locations, menu items, and a 'Taco Bikini Saturday' event."

Getting punked by fake tweets is nothing new at South by Southwest, though: journalist Mat Honan has an annual ritual of posting off-the-wall updates in which he pretends to be present at SXSWi but actually isn't ("At the hyper-packed Facebook panel waiting for some sort of 'big announcement.' I bet it's that the new redesign was done by Blingee").

The antics of Honan and other Twitter account holders led to the spread of fake rumors such as a free breakfast burrito giveaway at the local Whole Foods (not true) and reports that oddball actor Bill Murray was showing up at SXSWi parties (never confirmed, but let's face it: probably not true).

Last month, Twitter suspended an account claiming to come from the Dalai Lama but reinstated it when the owner of the account agreed to provide a disclaimer that it was unofficial.