Belgian cats have done their part to fight terrorism thanks to an unusual hijacking of Twitter hashtags.
The meme began over the weekend when police began a series of raids to pick up people suspected of planning attacks. The severity of the situation meant movements in many public areas were blocked off.
That inevitably led to Twitter discussion of the scenes on the street with the most popular hashtags including #Bruxelles (Brussels) and the English #BrusselsLockdown.
The Belgian police worried that people tweeting about sightings of officers preparing for a raid could tip off the suspects and posted a message that, translated, read “For safety, please observe radio silence on social media about ongoing police operations #Bruxelles . Thank you.”
With some people either not seeing the message or taking no heed, it was left to other Twitter users to do their part. They decided to bury any unintentional tipoffs by flooding Twitter with messages using the hashtags but including pictures of cats rather than reports of street activities. It turned into something of a contest to find the cat pic which most poked fun at would-be terrorists.
— max seddon (@maxseddon) November 22, 2015
Eventually the lockdown ended with 16 arrests. Police acknowledged Twitter’s response by posting the above image, with a caption that translates as “To all the cats who helped us last night: help yourselves! #BrusselsLockdown”
— Gilles Bordelais (@Gilles_PPDE) November 22, 2015