PSA: Stop Helping The Bad Guys, You Twitterers

The Associated Press reported that all you social media addicts are enabling the bad guys.

SEATTLE (AP) — Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.

The “TweetSmart” campaign began in late July by a coalition of nine agencies, including the Washington state patrol and the Seattle police, and aims to raise awareness about social media’s potential impact on law enforcement.

This explains why so many chases are interrupted so the criminals can check twitter on their smartphones to figure out what their next move should be.

“All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity,” said Nancy Kolb, who oversees the Alexandria, Virginia, organization’s Center for Social Media.

Not for nothing, but I suspect she’s directing this right at Radley Balko, who is personally responsible for all those residents in wrong door raids being forewarned so that they can hide their vicious dog.

“It’s a real safety issue, not only for officers but anyone in the vicinity,” Kolb said.

It’s unclear whether Kolb is talking about the use of SWAT teams or twitter.  While there is a wealth of information about the dangers of SWAT teams in mundane use, because the MRAPS and body armor are way cool, there is little info about the dangers of twitter to SWAT teams.  If there is an epidemic of cops being harmed due to twitter, it would seem we would know about it. Via twitter, probably.

More seriously, the Washington Police lay out their anecdotes to support silencing twitter:

Two recent incidents led the Washington State Patrol to organize the “TweetSmart” campaign: the search for a gunman in Canada after three officers were killed and a shooting at a high school near Portland, Oregon.

“I saw it personally as far back as Lakewood,” said State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins, referring to social media traffic during the manhunt for a man wanted for killing four officers in Washington state in 2009.

How twitter presented a safety issue (and how 2009 is a recent incident) remains a mystery.  That harm happened, whether to officers or in a school, is a terrible thing, but to attribute harm to social media requires a connection that just doesn’t appear to exist.

Seattle photographer Michael Holden said he saw a direct path between asking people not to share crime photos and eventually forbidding them to take them.

Holden said citizens have good reasons to take pictures of police and he does not worry about criminals using social media to find out what law enforcement is doing.

“I think the criminals are probably having more pressing concerns than checking Twitter,” he said.

Let’s face it, social media hasn’t been kind to the police. They can’t control it and frequently get caught using bad language, sometimes while pointing an AR15 at nice people.  It’s not their favorite thing.

So despite the cute name of “tweetSmart,” which follows the cool trend of adding the word “smart” behind any other word to make your ridiculous position look pretty darn reasonable, maybe the police would do better to focus on checking the addresses of homes to be raided by their SWAT teams than worrying about twitter.

Not that it’s likely that social media will go dark because the cops asked nicely. Or pointed a gun at the guy with the smartphone taking pics. Too often.


5 thoughts on “PSA: Stop Helping The Bad Guys, You Twitterers

  1. DanQ

    I remember reading a similar public appeal regarding the use of CB Radio in the 1970s. The most widely-known example; speed-trap circumvention. At the time it seemed just as amazing (and to some, entertaining) as services like Twitter. At the time, CB-Radio was pretty ground-breaking, especially in terms of the application of technology, consumer availability, and user anonymity.

    In the end, it was made apparent that when anonymity combines with a widely-available communications medium, requiring neither specialized knowledge or orderly behavior… the trolls come out in droves.

    1. John Barleycorn

      Don’t worry the cops are going to have the “kill switch” in CA soon enough. Time will tell if they use it according to the constructs of the legislation.

      Buy the little twits in your life a CB radio or better yet a ham radio set up for their birthday this year and tell them stories about the tools that existed before sexting for adventurous adolescents.

      Who knows the radio hobby might just save their bacon and be one of the few ways to get out the news in the not too distant future.

      Speaking of which the esteemed one should consider doing a drunken Sunday evening radio show once week. Think of all the fun to be had and all the snark to be shared during the call in segments.

      Perhaps a nationally syndicated format is on the horizon for the esteemed one’s prolific musings yet.

      1. DanQ

        I, along with all the little twits in my life, are hams (both definitions apply). I like the radio show idea/challenge. Though I don’t know about the Sunday night slot. Neil deGrasse Tyson has that hour sewn up,

  2. bill

    I’ll probably immediately disqualify myself on being a suckup grounds, but

    This explains why so many chases are interrupted so the criminals can check twitter on their smartphones to figure out what their next move should be.

    is probably the LULZIEST thing on the internet in at least 5 years.

    They’re using Twitter as a smokescreen. It’s true Social Media is brutal to them – but its stuff like Waze (which inline with JohnQ’s comment about CB) gives every smartphone user access to CB on steroids and one primary feature is crowd sourced real time cop spotting. Expand a few features on an app like this, and the referenced comment above would go from being brilliant sarcasm to reality.

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