Twitter – #bluelivesmatter
Racist, misogynistic and other dubious content.
Stroud Against Racism, who I am proud to support, have become particularly concerned about a number of anonymous police Twitter accounts. Some are used to promote sniffer dogs, and the like, but some amplify other, less cuddly, content.
One such account we came across was posting vile and misogynistic content. Confirming that these accounts are actually run by serving police officers is impossible. However, this particular account was followed by numerous other police Twitter accounts. Most of his followers were shocked and appalled when contacted.
There is another account of a named ex-officer (over 40k followers) who amplifies racist, misogynistic and other dubious content. They were recently arrested on domestic abuse and malicious communication charges. This chap is followed by thousands of other police accounts.
Sadly, Gloucestershire Constabulary and a sub account also followed this guy. Something which could be interpreted as tacit support.
Another sinister undercurrent is the use of the #bluelivesmatter hashtag by some of these anonymous police Twitter accounts. Far from being an expression of support for the police, it exists to effectively act as a taunt to sections of our community.
The phrase was born out of the systemic racism exposed by the murder of George Floyd. It was a reaction by US Police to the #BLM movement to combat and intimidate black activists into submission and silence. It is a potent symbol of the continued existence of structural racism both in the US and UK.
So, armed with the evidence, we asked for a meeting with Gloucestershire Constabulary. In a full and frank meeting we presented the facts and discussed what could be done at a local level. Their Comms Team and Diversity & Inclusion Lead were brought in and subsequently, we received this response:-
We’re going to do a full audit of the accounts and unfollow the ones you have suggested/review others.
There’s a bit of an issue with the programme we use to manage devolved social media accounts so we may not get this done fully until the new year but I have unfollowed one of the accounts you mentioned from our corporate account.
We are looking at having a tighter policy on who we follow which will probably mean we follow far fewer individuals (especially if they are not fully identified as a serving officer).”
My feelings are mixed, because of the national picture and the demise of Twitter following Musk's takeover.
But, there is no doubt that this is a strong response from Gloucestershire Constabulary. Hopefully other forces will follow their lead.
PS. A few days ago the Metropolitan Police published an FOI request that asked for details of how many officers have been investigated for inappropriate use of social media. So many cases to answer.