In Defense of Twitter

A recent Newsweek article discussed how Twitter is being used by politicians to spread bite-sized misinformation.

Some examples: A Congressman tweeted that Obama’s tax increase would be the largest in history, and the Republican National Committee claimed that economists see Obama’s stimulus plan as an “epic fail.”

While it’s clearly a problem that politicians are misinforming their followers (an appropriate term for them if they take any tweet on face value), I’m more interested in how this article portrays Twitter.  As the article explains:

By design, Twitter limits communication. It provides its users with 140 characters to make a point – enabling them to oversimplify and exaggerate. In politics, this is considered an asset, and both parties have taken to the social networking site that now claims to have more than 100 million users.

Surely, 140 characters is not enough to make a reasoned argument.  But Twitter does seem like a useful tool to keep citizens apprised of the most recent developments in the political world, especially because tweets can link to longer articles.  I think it’s a mistake to claim that Twitter enables politicians to “oversimplify and exaggerate”; they’ll find a way to do that on any platform.

And the very fact that this article was written reminds us of the upside of Twitter and other Internet news venues.  Because they reach millions of users and because anyone can comment and publish, misinformation will be detected and publicized.

My point, in 140 characters or less: don’t blame the tool, blame the agent.

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