New York City's hijacked hashtag launches a global conversation on police brutality

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: They say there's no such thing as bad PR but when it comes to social media, well, you be the judge. This week New York City's police department began a social media campaign that took an unintended turn, at least for the NYPD. I'll let The World's social media producer, Tory Starr, explain.

Tory Starr: It all started with a tweet on Tuesday that the NYPD news Twitter account sent out that says "If you have a photo with a member of the New York Police Department, tweet it using the #MyNYPD."

Werman: Right, so NYPD hoping for a few shots of a cop helping a kid scoop its ice cream cone off the sidewalk or something. But what started as a pretty innocent campaign went viral in a wholly unexpected way. What were some of the pictures that people started tweeting?

Starr: Within about an hour and a half, a twitter account that's associated with Occupy Los Angeles tweeted the cover of a New York Post story from January that showed an 84-year-old man with his face bloodied from being beaten up after allegedly just jaywalking across the street.

Werman: Beaten up by the NYPD?

Starr: Exactly. That really opened up a can of worms in terms of people tweeting different examples of police brutality.

Werman: And it wasn't just a New York City thing, it went global. Where did you see tweets coming from, Tory, and what kind of things were you seeing?

Starr: The hashtag was mimicked across the globe, so you were seeing first #MyLAPD, and then it started spreading into Mexico with #MiPoliciaMexicana. The hashtag #myELAS was used. ELAS stands for the Greek People's Liberation Army and what's being tweet using that hashtag are photos of excessive force being used against protesters during anti-austerity movements back in 2012.

Werman: So how has the NYPD responded to all of this?

Starr: The commissioner for the NYPD last night sent out a statement saying "We welcome all discussion." It really has started a global conversation about police brutality worldwide. It certainly was not their intention but it's really been interesting looking at the different examples of police actions in different parts of the globe.

Werman: Thank you, The World's social media producer, Tory Starr.

Starr: Thank you, Marco.