The Los Angeles Fire Department has been ahead of other city departments in using social media and blogs to communicate with the public and news media. Well, some of the department has been — the communications staff has operated two well-visited Twitter feeds, though it was never clear to me how invested the brass has been. Anyway, the LAFD took down its two Twitter accounts today and told the LA Times the reason was a new interpretation by the city's lawyers of the federal privacy law that protects medical patients. While that may or may not have actually happened, there apparently is now law that prevents the LFD from telling the media there is a fire on such-and-such block and conversing with the public about fire safety issues.
As soon as the Times called to ask what's up, Mayor Eric Garcetti put out a statement (through spokesman Yusef Robb) telling the LAFD basically "don't be ridiculous."
Frankly, it's ridiculous. We immediately told the department to fix this, and it's being fixed. The twitter account is going back online, and they're going to be giving out the information they're supposed to be giving out.
Robb said the fire chief learned about the policy change from the media. I guess whoever made the original call at the LAFD didn't know that the mayor is an inveterate user and admirer of Twitter as a communications tool. Shortly after the mayor's statement landed, the fire department surrendered and re-activated its feed @LAFD:
We have received a directive from the City Atty Office to resume our "previous manner of operations". Things may take awhile to resume. ^BH— LAFD (@LAFD) December 12, 2013
Just this week, the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists said it would give LAFD spokesman and social-media advocate Brian Humphrey a special award for advancing the flow of information.
Updated post: The Mayor's office sent out a revised statement attributing the quote to Yusef Robb.