On Wednesday afternoon, social media users began posting a bounce-back email – or notification of delivery errors – from the Minneapolis Police Department after they expressed their concern about George Floyd's murder in writing , and many wondered why and whether this was the intention.
John Elder, director of public information for the Minneapolis Police Department, told Digital Trends that the rebound was not intentional. There's a much more banal explanation: overwhelmed servers.
So much for this pre-written email from Minneapolis Police pic.twitter.com/tBtNDKekn3
– Eric (@ 3_r1c) June 3, 2020
"We are working at full capacity," said Elder in an email to Digital Trends. "We are flooded with communication. I receive over 1,000 emails a day. As simple as that."
After Floyd's death on May 25, activists used social media to distribute important information for rallies, collect donations, and how people can get involved virtually. Take the #BlackoutTuesday protest, for example.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
One of the most popular social campaigns in recent days has been the pre-written email to the Minneapolis police or other elected officials. On Instagram, users can post a link to their stories or in the bio section of their profile, where users can swipe up and open a pre-written email in their iPhone's mail app. All you have to do is enter your name and city, then click Submit.
When asked if this type of social media campaign overwhelmed the PD servers in Minneapolis, Elder said, "I don't know."
It is impossible to estimate how far pre-written email links have been shared on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Users with a large number of followers, such as the artist Maasi Godwin, have shared the TinyURL link with hundreds of thousands of followers.
The sheer number of people reporting the return of their emails is a sign that this type of fast, single-swipe campaign is effectively promoting civic engagement.
It's common for state and federal agencies to experience congested servers when demand is high – many simply don't have the technological infrastructure to handle it. Since the corona virus pandemic, many city, state, and state websites have had, or even gone down for hours, millions trying to apply for unemployment and other benefits, which only increased public frustration.