Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tracking the U.S. Government’s Response to #Occupy on Twitter

It’s no exaggeration to say that Occupy Wall Street first started on Twitter. As the New York Times reported Monday, the #occupywallstreet hashtag was conceived in July, a full two months before the first tent was pitched at Zuccotti Park.

As it grew from a single camp into a movement, Twitter was essential for getting real-time updates out as events unfolded, for both supporters and local government.

Particularly in the last month, some city officials have used Twitter as a tool to keep people informed. Even as they were dismantling camps, the mayors of New York City and Portland, Oregon were posting real-time updates and responding to citizens directly.

While city officials have actively communicated their positions, the response from the federal government has been muted, at best. The Occupy movement’s concerns are much larger than city politics, with most proposed demands requiring cooperation from Washington.

So far, official statements are isolated and infrequent — an early endorsement from the president, a couple of statements from the White House press secretary, and a range of opinions from individual members of Congress.

But maybe the situation’s different online? Twitter is much more casual and conversational, and social media-savvy federal agencies often respond directly to queries and complaints from their followers. It’s possible that federal employees are addressing questions and concerns about Occupy on Twitter instead.

I decided to find out.

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