Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora theater shooting threat, NYC Twitter subpoena coverage tells incomplete story

This morning, headlines are screaming about the New York City Police aiming a subpoena at Twitter in regard to tweets about launching an Aurora-theater-shooting-like attack on a Broadway theater. But little of the coverage I've seen has given a complete context of the alleged threat from the @obamamistress account, which could have been a bad joke gone terribly wrong.

Just shy of noon Denver time yesterday, I was on the @obamamistress page, which featured the heading "Anonymous Celebrity," when it went dead -- presumably a belated response by Twitter to the subpoena; the company had initially denied an NYPD request for user info according to the New York Times article linked above. In the minutes that followed, Twitter scrubbed everything from or linked to the account prior to July 30 -- there were months worth of them. And they're all gone now, with searches for the @obamamistress address currently bringing up another account that doesn't appear to have been used since 2010.

As such, I was only able to grab screen captures of a few random tweets saved elsewhere by another user, plus this image, from a blog address that initially came up after the page was deleted. Given the message, it likely was put in place by a hacker:

However, I was able to take notes -- and here's what you haven't read so far.

The biographical description of Anonymous Celebrity identified her as the mistress of Barack Obama and Reggie Bush, among others. On top of that, the intro claimed that she'd "FUCKED PEREZ HILTON" -- yes, the assertion was in all caps -- followed by the aside that she was indeed that good.

The tweets on the page consisted almost entirely of references to placing tabloid celebrities like Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Kim Kardashian on a "hit list." Here are some samples, courtesy of New York magazine:

Hard to know if law enforcement took these tweets seriously. But when viewed as a whole, they appear to be part of an attention-seeking, supposedly funny shtick by an online troll rather than as announcements of future actions.

Things changed, however, when the topic shifted to the Longacre Theatre, currently the place to see Undisputed Truth, a one-man show starring boxer Mike Tyson that's directed by Spike Lee. The difference, presumably, was the specificity of the location and the allusions to Aurora. Here's the tweet that set things off, as captured by a Twitter user, CatsPolitics:

That was followed by some back-and-forth among @obamamistress and another tweeter that was captured by Mashable: No such attack took place, fortunately. Why not? Here's the explanation, also grabbed by CatsPolitics: A failed gag? Probably. But in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting, as well as the Sikh temple massacre in Wisconsin, police are going to err on the side of caution. Hence the subpoena brouhaha targeting someone claiming to have banged the President of the United States.

More from our Tech archive: "James Holmes inspires Holmies fan groups: Real phenomenon or media overreaction?"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts