Monday, November 23, 2015

The Great Brussels CatDown

I'm pretty much always reading something on the internet. And I do it no matter the topic: it could be a headline about social media, entertainment news, or something that happened to the British Royal family that everyone else thinks is wildly interesting but I think is a shame because a family should be able to live their lives without everyone thinking that everything they do is wildly interesting.
But what I love to read on the internet the most is the good things. The nice things. The WONDERFUL things.
Today I shot a glance at the top 3 headlines in my facebook news feed and did a double take. "#BrusselsLockdown: Cat Photos Take Over Hashtag After Belgian Police Request Social Media Blackout." Cats on the internet? Not news. Police moving to capture terrorists? Sadly, something we're hearing about often. The two of them together? ...Interesting.
I never really thought of terrorists using twitter to check up on those they are terrorizing. But it's not like twitter is a secret good-guys-only radio channel where we whisper among ourselves. It's social media. That means that anything that anyone posts publicly (and I'm pretty sure that twitter doesn't have "private tweets") can be seen by anyone else in the world. That's pretty much the point of twitter: broadcasting your thoughts to the world and getting everyone to pay attention to you. So if you tweet that you saw a strike force sneaking down the alleyway near your apartment, anyone can see that, including the members of the terrorist cell who are holed up in the basement of the building at the end of the alley.
Belgian police are hunting for those responsible (or for those aiding those responsible) for the attacks on Paris ten days ago. It's pretty difficult to keep your movements covert when every single person has a device that connects them to everyone else. So the police asked people not to report their movements on social media. It's unnecessary to say "you never know who's watching," because they do know: the people they were hunting were watching.
So instead of quieting down on social media, instead of tweeting about something else entirely, instead of shutting down their twitter app and watching a movie, Belgians exploded the hashtag. #BrusselsLockdown went viral. With cats.
Too much information is sometimes even worse than none at all. If there's too much, it's hard to sift through it to find something that might be useful. Instead of finding snippets of intel about where the police were or what they were doing, the only thing terrorists could see when searching the hashtag were Belgian cats. Cats lounging. Cats purring. Cats dressed up in little costumes. Cats on lockdown, locking down the internet, and keeping the movements of the police safe from the bad guys.
I love reading wonderful things on the internet.

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