Political Tweets and Transparency

By now, everyone knows the power social media giant Twitter has had in revolutionizing how our society communicates with itself. Even politicians understand the leverage of sending out 140 characters of talking points to solidify support for their positions. Recently, May 8 edition of The Economist explores political tweeting.
Sebastián Piñera, the newly elected president of Chile, has asked all cabinet members to start tweeting. His own account is now the most-followed in the country. Venezuala’s Hugo Chávez tweets too (@chavezcandanga). In June only three Japanese politicians had accounts; now Politter, a site dedicated to Twitter and Japanese politics, lists 485. An analysis of last year’s German elections by the University of St Gallen discovered that 577 politicians had opened Twitter accounts, three-quarters of them in 2009. Greece’s prime minister George Papandreou uses Twitter. But @primeministergr is the office, not the man. His staff tweet for him, sometimes using a code to signal who wrote what.

However, does social media make politicians more accessible to their constituents and detractors? Possibly not. President Barack Obama won the White House, thanks in part to his campaign's strong use of social media. According to the article, "at its height Barack Obama’s campaign (@barackobama) employed 100 staff working on social media such as Twitter." Nonetheless, "the scale of response makes it hard for office-holders to tweet themselves. Mr Obama reads just a select ten of the messages (20,000 of all kinds) he receives daily."

Recently, Global Wire went out and interviewed ordinary people about their thoughts on this matter. Some opinions were negative.

"At first, it might seem cool to follow and send tweets to your favorite politicians, but then you realize that the politician's Twitter account is being run by some intern or secretary in their office, which I think defeats the purpose of politicians connecting with your constituents about their concerns," said Nadya Ghanem of Turkey.

"What is the point of connecting with politicians online when they are not really connecting with you," said Luis Calbarro of Suriname. "It's like Twitter is no different from sending an email to a politician's office and not getting a response. It might be read or thrown in a inbox with other Tweets. It is all window dressing."

But some were hopeful of the future of political tweeting, like Shelly Kim from South Korea, who was exciting see the digital activism in her country's recent presidential election. Last March there was some controversy over the use of Twitter by South Korean lawmakers and making it accessible for all.

"I have seen the power of why social media is being taken more seriously by politicians because they really do listen to what the people have to say," she said.

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