The man behind Mayor Frod spoke with Torontoist to give his side of the story.
When Rob Ford’s crack scandal broke in May 2013, Twitter exploded, and the reaction gave birth to the city’s best Rob Ford parody account: @TOMayorFrod. Mayor Frod, who in real life is acclaimed and totally unFrod-like sound designer Richard Feren, is a fake mayor who’s not afraid to speak his mind or indulge his id (or perhaps his Frod-ian pleasure principle). But Frod’s tweets are also marked by a sense of whimsy and often contain genuinely helpful information about the city—indeed, many Twitter users have said he is more helpful than the real mayor. While Frod skewers Ford’s attitudes and behaviour by amplifying his vices, he also highlights his mayoral failings by pointing followers to helpful City services and fun events. But on Wednesday morning, as council began its February session, the @TOMayorFrod account was banned from Twitter.
It’s unclear exactly how and why the banning or suspension of the account—which was done without any warning or notice—came about, but it’s possible it won’t last long: an email sent Tuesday evening from Twitter to Feren told him the account could be reinstated if he makes changes to his bio, background, and avatar to more clearly distinguish them from those of the real mayor. (Frod currently uses the same avatar and background as the real mayor, and his bio misspells “Ford” and “Toronto.”) The account could be reinstated as early as Thursday.
The news of the shutdown came as a surprise. Feren had earlier checked with City Hall staff to make sure the account was acceptable, and a former Ford staffer previously told Torontoist that the mayor’s staff, in fact, at one point thought the parody account was run by one of their own. It’s unclear which part of Twitter’s terms of service Mayor Frod has violated, and the mayor’s office has denied it was behind the request to have the account removed. And because no one can keep Frod Nation down, a new Mayor Frod account—one not run by Feren—has since taken its place.
Torontoist had a chance to speak with Mayor Frod about his Twitter crisis, and who he thinks was responsible.
Torontoist: Mayor Frod, can you tell us what happened with your Twitter account today?
Mayor Frod: Well, I was busy as usual, being the most communicative mayor in Toronto history. I had just tweeted “My condolences to my friend Vladimir Putin, whose hockey team was bullied out of the Olympics by gay-loving Finland.” Shortly afterwards, a curt notification appeared at the top of my page, saying my account was suspended. I hope it’s not because of those terrible Pussy Riot people: I have enough at home to start a riot.
You’ve been tweeting for about nine months, but it’s not until now that you’ve been stripped of your Twitter powers. Why do you think that’s the case?
I can only speculate, but it’s no secret that most city councillors are jealous that they have no good satirical accounts of their own. So you can draw your own paranoid conclusions from that. Of course, it could just be another political move by police chief Blair, who probably didn’t appreciate all my crowing about getting away with all that lawbreaking. Still, it could just be a blown fuse somewhere on the Twitter mainframe. I’m still awaiting a return call from their tech support.
Those are some very serious allegations. What about Twitter’s terms of service? Might you have violated those?
I may have violated their terms of service, but it would have been over a year ago, in one of my drunken stupors. Following my mom’s advice, I installed an alcohol detector in the account, so it will automatically pull over and stop at the side of the internet if I’m drunk-tweeting. Otherwise, it’s possible I may have brushed uncomfortably close to their terms of service, but to my knowledge I have never crossed the line. Usually, it’s up my nose before I have a chance to cross it anyway.
To clarify, have you actually read the terms of service?
Look, my dad was in satire—we kids grew up learning the ropes from him. I’ve been around satire all my life, so I don’t need to read any instruction manual.
You have a lot of fans who agree with you, the so-called Frod Nation. What has their support through this ordeal meant to you?
It means a great deal to me. Everywhere I go, people keep telling me, “We want satire, Rob. Satire, satire, satire!” And I listen to the people. I want to thank all the millions of folks in Frod Nation who have been tweeting their support for me, because that’s what keeps me going. That, and certain unspecified chemical substances.
For the time being, you don’t have your Twitter account. Is there a message you would like to share with your supporters, or send to your foes?
Yes. To whoever is behind the suspension of my account: you just invaded Kuwait! And to my supporters: don’t worry folks…I’m not going away. Frod More Years!
Thanks you for being so responsive and sharing your time with us, Mayor Frod.
Thank you. I’m always happy to answer your questions. Give my best regards to Raccoon Nation!
@TOMayorFrod’s Twitter account has now been restored: