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In an age when many politicians are struggling to find social media fluency and potential Twitter scandals lurk on every keyboard, some Members of Congress are trying to use the power and adaptability of social media to overpower its potential disadvantages.
The new site Politwoops, which the Sunlight Foundation launched Wednesday, captures the tweets that politicians delete from their Twitter accounts. Politwoops quickly revealed some contentious tweets and inflicted at least one initial casualty, but shortly after its launch, several political operatives began using the site to advance their own agendas.
Politicians are using the platform to make sure their tweets are seen. Thanks to Politwoops, doing so is now as easy as hitting “delete.”
The launch of Politwoops drew national media attention within a few hours of its launch, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) has been prolific in making use of the site. Of several deleted tweets from @DennyRehberg appearing on Politwoops, a message from Thursday reads, “If you think twitter mistakes on #politwoops are bad, just wait until you see the regulatory mistakes of the Obama Administration!”
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) then tweeted and deleted from the account @DavidSchweikert: “#politwoops saves lost tweets, now if we can just get President Obama to save lost jobs …”
He also tweeted: “Wish #politwoops would hold Obama and Holder accountable for their missing facts on #FastandFurious just as it does missing tweets.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) followed suit, deleting the tweet: “We need to delete excessive govt regulations, spending-driven debt, & tax hikes that hurt #smallbiz #4jobs http://t.co/aWvvft0z #politwoops.”
Rehberg, who is running for the Senate this year, confirmed that he was using Politwoops to get his messages to the public. He said he believes that creative innovations in social media increase government transparency and accountability — the main goal of the Sunlight Foundation.
“Where else can you get a message out by erasing it?” he added.
Rehberg’s, Boehner’s and Schweikert’s actions stand in contrast to those of Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), whose deleted May 18 tweet has attracted the most attention on Politwoops. The site released a previously undetected tweet from Miller’s account that read: “Was Obama born in America?” with a link to a public opinion poll about Obama’s birthplace on Miller’s Facebook account. Miller’s account, @CongJeffMiller, was deleted shortly after the launch of the Politwoops site.
Tom Lee, director of Sunlight Labs, didn’t directly link the deletion of Miller’s account to the launch of Politwoops but said, “My understanding is that Congressman Miller’s office was contacted by a reporter, so I have no firsthand knowledge. Obviously, it’s suggestive.”