Social media can easily jeopardize security operations. Just a wayward tweet or a quick Snapchat can potentially expose a high-risk raid, putting hundreds at danger.
The Belgian capital city of Brussels remained on lockdown on Sunday as law enforcement agencies searched for a key suspect in the Paris attacks and a major threat. The terror alert level was raised to “maximum” as the authorities conducted large anti-terrorism raids all over the city to stave off an “imminent terrorist attack,” and reportedly arrested 16 people.
To keep their movements under wrap, authorities asked residents not to post any pictures or details of police activity on social media, for the fear that terrorists might use that information to track where people could be gathering or where police could be conducting raids.
Par sécurité, veuillez respecter le silence radio sur les médias sociaux concernant les opérations de police en cours à #Bruxelles. Merci— Police Fédérale (@PolFed_presse) November 22, 2015
“For safety, please observe radio silence on social media about ongoing police operations in #Bruxelles. Thank you,” Belgium's federal police tweeted.
Police are asking the public not to report their movements on social media, please support & rt #BrusselsLockdown— Steven Vandeput (@svandeput) November 22, 2015
The authorities probably expected an unpleasant response from the Internet, but people not only complied with the social media lockdown request, but also gave it a surprising — and somewhat surreal — twist.
In the face of terror, the residents of Brussels flooded Twitter with hilarious cat memes.
Apparently, it all began with Hugo Janssenm, a cameraman for the Dutch television channel NOS, who tweeted: “Instead of tweets about police activity in Brussels, here's a picture of our cat Mozart.”
Well, it is a universally acknowledged fact that of all the things Internet responds the fastest to, cat memes top the list. Therefore, the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown, which was previously rather gloomy, immediately went viral with adorable GIFs, videos and images of cats as feline snipers, police officers and suspects.