Image above by Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
It should be apparent by now that when you ask a community as wide as the Internet for a bit of support, a large proportion of it will turn around and bite you in the ass. Apparently the New York City Police Department had not learnt this lesson and have now become the latest online laughing stock.
In a feeble attempt to reach out to the community and do a bit of PR, NYPD asked its followers on Twitter to post photos of themselves together with police officers using the hashtag #myNYPD. The response was swift and brutal.
Followers immediately hijacked the hashtag and started posting pictures of police brutality or gross misconduct instead. One follower posted a picture of an officer pulling the hair of a person who appears to be under arrest, with the text: “The #NYPD will also help you de-tangle your hair.”
NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster defended the Twitter campaign and didn’t see it as a backlash, even though the response to it was unexpected.
“The NYPD 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,” Royster said.
In all fairness, not all tweets were bad, there were even a few that defended the cops: “People are so lame, there’s a lot of good cops out there as well,” tweeted @annuhk.
There have already been a few spectacular failures on Twitter to learn from. Hashtags are often hijacked and used to trend a topic in ways its creators didn’t, but possibly should have predicted.
In September 2012, magazine Newsweek ran an article on Islam and instructed its readers to share their thoughts under the not-so-thought-through hashtag #MuslimRage. It was taken over by thousands who ridiculed the hashtag with the most hilarious tweets possible.
— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) April 22, 2014
“Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can’t yell for him. #MuslimRage” and “The shawarma guys wraps my sandwich too tightly, so I have to rip off little pieces of paper bit by bit. #MuslimRage,” are just a few examples.
McDonalds also failed on Twitter in 2012 with the #McDstories hashtag, asking customers to share their favorite McDonalds memories. Countless horror stories of rude staff, hair in the food, insects, and food poisoning poured in. The campaign was yanked after only two hours.
Julian Moran Martz also responded to the NYPD hashtag and probably had the smartest thing to tweet: “Lesson number 1 about hashtags: just because you created one doesn’t mean you own it. #myNYPD.”