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Defining the Conversation

Twitter in Politics: Is It Legitimate or Evil?

My local paper carried a story today about Twitter’s fast penetration of the US Federal Government. There’s a lot of praise from new media types and transparency junkies, but of course the cynics abound:

Some bloggers have mused that Twitter may not be an effective way of communicating with Congress. Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online, asked in a recent posting if Twitter had “just become another tool for spamming politicians and decision makers.”

Judging from my experience with public figures and Twitter, one of the things that is most exciting is the raw pipeline to the public. Until the internet made it possible for “anybody” to amass a following the size of a city, getting into the public eye meant putting an increasing number of filters between you and your…fans.

In the end, though, it’s important to remember that Twitter (like WordPress) is just a tool, and it’s not inherently a good tool or a bad tool. It’s perfectly possible for one politician to be using it honestly to connect with their constituents and another to bang out press releases.

And, incidentally, both of those approaches are totally OK. Those who want the press releases will follow the accounts that pump it out. Those who don’t, won’t.

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