Nine different agencies, including Seattle Police and the Washington State Patrol, have launched what they're calling a "TweetSmart" campaign. This initiative is essentially discouraging people from tweeting about police activity during suspect manhunts or deadly shootings. WSP spokesman Bob Calkins pointed to a 2009 incident in Lakewood, during which authorities were searching for a man believed to have killed four officers. Some people apparently tweeted the fact that police were searching a park in Seattle for the suspect.
While the reasons for the launch of the TweetSmart campaign are understandable, they nevertheless aim to suppress free speech by Washington residents. And the interests of law enforcement and people using Twitter may be radically different; for instance, police may be hunting for a school shooter while parents are frantically seeking (and tweeting) information about the safety of their children. At what point do these 140-character messages become "unwanted?"
One also wonders whether the next step is criminalizing these types of tweets. If this does happen, a person could be subject to jail time if he or she wants to inform frantic mothers about where there kids are. Authorities admit that they can mitigate these potential problems by being proactive on social media while police actions are occurring. Even so, the TweetSmart campaign sends a chilling message for people who simply want to use a particular digital app.