The Obama administration has been increasingly using Twitter as a way to shape news stories and public debate, often going so far as to eschew traditional channels like press releases and news conferences in favor of the social microblogging network, Reuters reports. Characterizing the White House’s Twitter activity as an “army” waging “wars” with conservatives and other Obama opponents, the report points to the administration’s embrace of Twitter as a public debate sphere.
More and more staffers are being placed in positions of authority over a variety of White House-claimed Twitter accounts. @BarackObama, @WhiteHouse, @blog44 and others are managed by multiple staffers, for example, and individual accounts by staffers at all levels of public scrutiny are used to amplify one another’s efforts. More than a dozen staffers have joined in the official effort.
Senior adviser to the Obama administration Dan Pfeiffer is the person behind the conscious Twitter campaign. Since July “the White House has doubled its footprint,” the report said, presumably in terms of follower numbers. That growth is not lost on any interested party; even the Syrian Electronic Army saw its potential when it hacked some of the President’s Twitter presence last week to spread its message via link redirects.
Observers have characterized the White House’s Twitter strategy as propaganda (in the case of opponents) or as a politically astute embrace of the medium (in the case of proponents.) One thing it does show is Twitter’s increasing relevance in the public sphere. As the social network opens the flood gates to public investment and as time moves on, the company’s 200 million active users may become more and more influential as a political rhetoric swarm.