Bosses at Northcliffe Media have contacted microblogging site Twitter in a bid to discover the identity of a user who is parodying the company’s chief executive Steve Auckland.
The @UnSteveDorkland account has attracted more than 150 followers on Twitter with regular posts about the company which imply they come from an insider.
These included potentially libellous comments about editors and senior managers and details of which meetings the company’s chief executive was attending.
The regional publisher has now confirmed it has contacted Twitter headquarters in the US asking for help in identifying the mystery poster on the grounds that some of the comments have been “obsessive and offensive”.
UnSteveDorkland is the third parody account set up, with the tweeter previously posting under the account names Steve Auckland and Steve Dorkland.
The first of these was closed down by Twitter after the publisher contacted it, because of rules saying you cannot impersonate someone else.
The anonymous tweeter now posts under the name NotSteveDorkland with a photo of George Clooney as his profile image, describing himself as “The man they tried to ban! Not a media man. Not a man of the North. Fan of Voltaire. Clearly a parody.”
There have been 224 tweets on the account to date, but none since last Friday, 13 July.
In a statement, Steve Auckland said: “I can confirm we have taken action to ask Twitter for help in identifying the individual in order to protect our staff from harassment.
“We made no request for, nor had any input in, a decision to stop tweeting. Our first priority is a duty of care to all of our employees.
“Some of the recent anonymous activity on Twitter has been both obsessive and offensive. We will not tolerate such behaviour and for these reasons we sought legal advice.
“Anyone who knows me realises I am a supporter of open communication. I am very happy to engage and directly answer any questions relating to the business. I will not tolerate any form of harassment of Northcliffe Media’s employees, especially from anonymous sources.”