Since Friday, November 20, the city of Brussels has been under citywide lockdown another terrorist attack, planned by a local terrorist cell believed imminent. Yesterday, the Belgian national police service issued a request to media and the public to refrain from posting on social media about the ongoing raids and hunt for suspects. This tactic was recently employed in France to stem fears of tipping off or encouraging suspects and causing increased public panic.
But among the fear and distress, Belgians and people all across social media reacted purrfectly to the police request with the best weapon the Internet has: cats.
Throughout the lockdown, social media users exercised rare discretion by complying with the police request and assisting to make information about the anti-terror response harder for those with malicious intent to find. #BrusselsLockdown started trending and along with it an endless stream of memes showing cats doing their part to fight terrorism.
According to Sysomos MAP, throughout the last three days, there have been over 300,000 tweets mentioning #BrusselsLockdown, with 80,000 occurring on Sunday night around 11pm local time as the lockdown was most intense.
Interestingly, although this was a highly localized event, the French were the most vocal on social media being a topic very close to the recent Paris attacks. In addition, it was widely talked about across both Europe and North America, showing the true global impact of an event like this.
But what kind of power did the cats have? When looking at some text analytics of the 300,000 mentions over the last 3 days, it is apparent that the conversation really started to focus on cats and not around specifics of raids, or police actions.
When all was said and done, and the initial fear and distress had quieted down, it was apparent that the tactics and requests of the Belgian police had paid off. The most retweeted content over the last three days was a special thank you by the Belgian National Police to its newest partner in the ongoing fight against terrorism.