The Interaction of Social Media & Politics

wendy davis twitterDuring major moments in politics, where do you turn for news? Increasingly, the answer to that question is social media. Social media provides real-time updates that often outshine that of major news sources. In fact, even major news sources are using social media more and more to provide fast coverage that reaches millions of users. Social media also allows politicians and key players in political movements to interact with each other and with constituents. Three recent stories illustrate the important role social media is playing in political movements.

Voting Through Vine

In June of this year, Representative Eric Swalwell of California made history as likely the first Congressman to vote on a bill via Vine, a mobile app owned by Twitter that lets users create and post video clips. Rep. Swalwell was protesting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a controversial bill posing nationwide restrictions on abortion. Though the bill ultimately passed in the House, it is unlikely to pass in the Senate and President Obama has promised to veto. Rep. Swalwell’s Vine vote may not have changed the outcome of the bill in the House, but it certainly caught the nation’s attention as politics and social media become more and more intertwined.

The Filibuster Heard ‘Round the Web

On June 25th, state Senator Wendy Davis of Texas led what is being referred to as the first crowdsourced filibuster. This 13-hour filibuster against an anti-abortion bill may have been the first time in history that crowd-participation directly influenced legislation, as protestors in the gallery shouted and screamed until the special session ended at midnight.

Senator Davis specifically sought out crowd participation through Twitter, where she announced her plan to filibuster. This tweet was retweeted over 9,000 times. On Tumblr, supporters of Davis put out a call for more testimonials for Davis to read during the filibuster. As users documented the situation play-by-play on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, viewers across the country tuned in to the livestream and watched for updates on social media.

Conflict in Egypt

Most recently, political upheaval in Egypt came to a head on July 3rd following three days of street protests. President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian military, and interestingly, much of the conflict played out over social media. Both President Morsi and the military used Twitter and Facebook to post statements that were not simultaneously seen on other forms of media.

When the military threatened President Morsi with an ultimatum to meet protestors’ demands for a more inclusive government, Morsi responded with his rejection via Twitter. SCAF, which governs the military in Egypt, preferred to post updates on Facebook, such as the terms of the coup. Despite the military overthrow, a verified Twitter account affiliated with President Morsi continued to tweet in defiance. An official Facebook page for President Morsi also posted a status rejecting the military’s coup. Facing a lack of statements elsewhere, top news sites posted these social media updates.

With social media users getting their news more and more from sites like Facebook and Twitter, your business or agency can get on board with newsjacking – as long as it is tasteful and relevant.

Do you use social media as a reliable source for news?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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