Twitter, The Police, and Freedom of Speech

This Tweet caused a big controversy. You can read all about it on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh police chief shuts down Twitter account after photo controversy.

Here’s what I don’t understand:

I feel that this Twitter message is also a violation of the policy and, moreover, hypocritical as our Police Chief. – Officer Howard McQuillan, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge

Chief McLay never said this was happening among police officers. I took this more to mean in the police force’s work, he would challenge racism whenever he saw it. His work is in the public. This makes sense to me. If a teacher posted this, I would think that he or she would address racism with students.

The investigation’s focus on Twitter, as opposed to other social media platforms, was because the complaints “have been about Twitter, not LinkedIn, not Facebook.”

You can’t complain about a photo that is posted on more than one media, but only look into one of those channels. It’s like saying it’s OK to show the photo on TV, but not in the newspaper.

Isn’t wanting to see an end to racism – and even promising to challenge it – a good thing? Given the recent racism-fueled controversies with police around the country, isn’t this positive? Even Mayor Peduto supports Chief McLay: Mayor supports Chief McLay’s embrace of anti-racism message.

If he said this on TV would it have been so explosive? Was Twitter’s ability to easily share this a major factor in the offense? I think so. I think some people are just scared of anyone’s ability to speak their mind in a way that can’t be controlled. There is no gatekeeper, and those particularly used to law and order may find that intimidating.

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