The Twitter Social Media Website was created on 21 March 2006 by Jack Dorsey (Newkirk II online). Twitter made connectivity and organization cheaper compared to times before it started. In April 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama was the first to begin using the social media medium to manipulate politics (Newkirk II online).
How Twitter Reshapes Political Dialog
Twitter’s Chief of Reporting, Elections and Government, Adam Sharp, notes that Twitter has an influence on politics and protest movements. With the election of President Barack Obama, Twitter has given birth to an opposition party. The group was called The Tea Party movement which was formed by people from different geographic locations and shared the same ideas. Michael Patrick Leahy the founder of the hashtag Top Conservatives on Twitter (#TCOP) and also a major force for the start of the Tea Party movement (Newkirk II online). The hashtag #TCOT grew from a 30 member list to above 3500, and by early 2009, they held weekly conferences He points the formation of the party to isolation and anger by conservatives.
Republicans got a space to express their woes from 2008 after Obama’s election and Senator McCain losing a campaign. The auto-industry bailout in late 2008 created the perfect environment for conservatives to speak out to the outgoing Republican leadership. Other local Tea Parties came up such as Chicago Tea Party started by Rick Santelli (Newkirk II online).
There are watchdog groups such as Politiwoops that have ensured accountability by politicians. The open conversations between the politicians and voters and the presence of watchdog groups have caused the downfall of some politicians who were not mindful of their conversations on Twitter. Politicians, groups, and individuals with a mass following on Twitter have used this opportunity to grab political power and even using the Twitter influence for their benefits.
Messages Sent on Twitter; Senders, Receivers, and Any Gatekeepers
Messages from politicians. Political candidates are forced to use Twitter to communicate to their supporters as those who do not are at risk of losing. In a surprising way, some politicians hurl insults across the social media platform towards other politicians and to people who oppose them.
Message from the people. Voters are now able to communicate with politicians directly and speak their minds out without fear. Direct conversations with the politicians are now easy through Twitter, unlike the past. Like-minded people can now come together quickly unlike the past where geographic boundaries limited people. Twitter users are now able to go beyond the state of working alone and form coalitions that sometimes can accomplish what they could not even through the ballot box. Twitter has shifted the power that once lay in the hands of politicians to the hands of the citizens and enabled them to have a voice.
Messages from marginalized groups. Black Lives Matter a group of marginalized black people used Twitter to broadcast the messages against racism. An activist for The Black Lives Matter, Johnetta Elzie 26 years old says that Twitter has become an essential power in pushing policies for marginalized groups (Newkirk II online). Twitter she says has done what white media has never done in the past years. Natural opposing powers that arise from using a standard media of communication influenced the candidacy of Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. Trump leads a group of conservative Twitter users who are opposed to the actions of Black Lives Matter and other activists supporting people of color and fight for social changes.
On Twitter there are gatekeepers. Messages that violate the code of conduct have to viewed, edited or deleted, and the editors do this. Words that oppress certain groups of people face opposition from viewers on Twitter. Watchdog groups have developed to keep a check on this.
Newkirk II, Vann R. “The American Idea in 140 Characters: Twitter and Politics at 10 Years.” The Atlantic, 24 Mar. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/twitter-politics-last-decade/475131/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2017.