Parody accounts could change cell phone policy


Kirsten Cintigo

Fake accounts such as The Pearliest Post make students susceptible to bullying.

Maria Ruiz and Elizabeth Cortez

With new Instagram parody accounts of the schools’ student publications, Principal Deb Smith threatens to revoke current cell phone rules and implement a new cell phone policy.

Last semester, an unknown individual created two parody Instagram accounts of The Pearl Post and PearlNetNews: “ThePearliestPost” and “PearlNutNews.” The parody accounts mock the school newspaper and broadcast’s official Instagram accounts and repost photos with different captions.

It was first seen as a joke but as time progressed, staff members from The Pearl Post felt that these accounts crossed the line from parody and are beginning to edge towards satire. It could damage the reputation of the publications by making them appear unprofessional and implying false statements. Publications promote students’ work and instead, these accounts portray the published work of students in a negative way.

“Initially I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” The Pearl Post Opinion/Engagement Editor Kristen Cintigo said. “I just thought somebody was just making a joke. Farther along, it seemed kind of mean and it seemed kind of rude to do considering the person doesn’t seem to be in our publication.”

The parody accounts have been reported to Instagram, however the social media platform says the accounts or posts don’t violate its terms of services. Due to the accounts being seen as a parody, there is not much one can do to shut these accounts down unless legal action is taken. Copyright law states that a creator of a photo or article is the owner of that piece. Their work cannot be republished without the owner’s permission, but you can republish parts of the work.

“The key to parody is that you must be mocking that piece of creative work itself,” Student Press Law Center Senior Legal Fellow Frank LoMonte said in an interview via email. “As long as it’s clear that these are takeoffs for purposes of humor or commentary, then it’s permissible to duplicate a lot of the creative elements of the original.”

Parents and teachers have reached out to Smith complaining about the accounts and how they are potentially affecting students. She has yet to find the people (or person) hiding behind this, therefore Smith threatened to enforce a previous and more restrictive phone policy amongst students. The current cell phone policy allows students to use their electronic devices before school, during nutrition and lunch and after school. During the school year of 2013-2014, the School Site Council banned electronic device usage during school hours due to three Twitter accounts making racist and derogatory comments about students and staff.

“You can’t just get an account pulled down from a social-media platform because it makes you angry,” LoMonte said. “There has to be either a violation of the platform’s own terms of service or a violation of a legal right. Copyright infringement could certainly be the basis of a takedown demand.”

In efforts to catch the anonymous person behind the account, Smith summonsed students suspected of creating the accounts to her office and is encouraging students to provide any useful information. Creators have refused to reveal themselves and still continue to repost online. Smith is closely watching the accounts but as of now, no decision has been made on whether or not to ban the use of electronic devices during school hours.

“If a student has their own Instagram account and they’re putting up stuff that’s bullying, or mean, or sexual. It’s my responsibility to look into that and communicate with parents to either get them to take it down, clean it up, or close the account,” Smith said.