The New York Police Department learned a hard lesson Tuesday, one that quite a few organizations have learned over the past few years: If you create a Twitter hashtag, people will make it into whatever they want.
This is the tweet that kicked off the fiasco:
The near-immediate response was not Twitter followers posting photos of themselves posing with police officers and smiling. Instead, a huge number of the photos people tweeted using the hashtag looked a lot like this:
each catalogued even more examples of people’s photos of New York cops behaving aggressively, sleeping on the job, allegedly taking bribes, or carrying out the city’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy.
The @NYPDnews Twitter account
seemingly ignored all those responses, though. Instead of responding to them, the account retweeted four photos of friendly interactions with police officers that people tweeted.
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According to Vanity Fair
, the department did release a brief statement about the hashtag Wednesday morning, but it didn’t say much: “The N.Y.P.D. is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”
The thing is, a dialogue has two sides.