Twitter has become a remarkably powerful, yet double-edged tool for politicians and election candidates. With this use of social media they can get their message across to a huge percentage of voters that would be otherwise uninterested in the voting procedure, or in some cases, would have never heard about them in the first place. It gives a sense of accessibility to the citizens, makes the government seem more transparent, and ultimately pulls in more votes. Yet Twitter is a double-edged sword for the rulers of countries. Like a sword it can also work against them, sometimes in a decapitating fashion.
One senator who certainly used Twitter.com to his advantage is now known as President Barack Obama. In between the 3rd and 4th of November 2008, the day of his election, he reportedly gained an extra 2,865 new followers on Twitter.
Other politicians like Gia Raimondo, Treasurer of Rhode Island give the public access to information via www.Twitter.com. She regularly updates her followers with financial news and the current state budget, giving a more transparent and democratic feel to the way the state is governed.
Twitter has also been the effective tool of those working against the government. The most prolific involvement in civil uprisings was during the protests in Egypt that saw the resignation of Mubarak. Even though the country had its internet completely shut down, its people could still send messages via Twitter. Social media was a phenomenally huge factor in the Egyptian revolt and vitally important to the protestors, 85,000 of which had previously used Facebook to organize a national antigovernment protest.
After their internet was shut down Google engineers scratched their chins, trying to come up with an idea to get through to the isolated citizens of Egypt. They accomplished this task in just one weekend, with help from a small team of Twitter engineers and a company called SayNow, the name of which being a big clue.
They developed the idea of speak-to-tweet which provides 3 international phone numbers that anyone can call and leave a voice message on. Their messages can be heard at www.twitter.com/speak2tweet