The NYPD’s Twitter campaign went off the rails on Tuesday after it asked residents to share photos of themselves with officers using the hashtag #myNYPD.
Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook. pic.twitter.com/mE2c3oSmm6— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
Many people uploaded photos of alleged police brutality, including rough treatment of protesters at the Occupy Wall Street rallies in late 2011 and early 2012. Here are some of those responses:
That's me reaching towards my brother (and @CSMuncyPhoto on the ground) #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/4MiTKWOB14— Molly Knefel (@mollyknefel) April 22, 2014
Yours truly. RT @NYPDnews: Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. pic.twitter.com/olAxGgU4Hs
NYPD shooting a dog for fun. #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/zoRwLipGOp— Scizyr Saj'Xanin (@Scizyr) April 22, 2014
Some users did share the warm and fuzzy images that the department was surely hoping for, including:
@NYPDnews #myNYPD #wallstreet pic.twitter.com/WCREuIjNjZ— vane•matus? (@vanvanmt) April 22, 2014
"@poshwonderwoman: @NYPDnews my photo from my ride along with the boys from the 90th pct #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/6ZPk1ozT7m"— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
But it wasn’t enough to stop the flood of negative headlines about the campaign on Wednesday morning.
The NYPD told The New York Times it was "creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community". Twitter provides "an open forum for an uncensored exchange that is good for our city," said NYPD spokeswoman Kim Royster.
The NYPD campaign calls to mind other Twitter backfires such as JPMorgan Chase’s failed #AskJPM Q&A last year that invited a flood of taunting tweets. Then there was McDonald’s #McDStories initiative in 2012 that brought up scores of unappetising anecdotes about the fast-food chain.
Such efforts demonstrate that organisations and companies cannot expect to control social media conversations. As the NYPD itself noted on Tuesday: "You take the good with the bad."