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Mayor Gray Defends Twitter Restrictions

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The Twitter feed for D.C. Fire and EMS is active again Thursday after a directive from Mayor Gray's office silenced it almost a month ago.
The Twitter feed for D.C. Fire and EMS is active again Thursday after a directive from Mayor Gray's office silenced it almost a month ago.

There were a couple of heated exchanges at Wednesday's mayoral press conference, as reporters pressed D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to explain why two key sources of information -- the police scanner and the fire department's Twitter feeds -- have effectively been silenced.

For decades, media organizations have relied on police scanners for breaking news, but as WAMU first reported, the police department has decided to "encrypt" its radio communications. As for the fire department's Twitter feed, which until a month ago, had been a reliable source of real-time information, officials first said the officer in charge of the account was on vacation, but later added they were changing their Twitter policy and all "tweets" would be filtered before going out.

Update: The D.C. Fire and EMS Twitter officially went back online Thursday afternoon.

Paul Quander, the deputy mayor for public safety, says the changes were made for security reasons.

"There has to be a balancing act," Quander says. "The world is changing on us, I don't want to have to explain why certain info got out and officers or citizens were injured."

Part of the problem is technology. It's now easy for anyone with a smartphone, including criminals, to download an app that broadcasts police radio communications, and officials are still trying to grapple with Twitter and other social media.

They say the fire department's new Twitter feed will be up soon.


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