Stephanie Borg Psaila   16 Jul 2011   E-Diplomacy

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Over 26,000 people took part in a live Twitter Town Hall event dedicated to US President Barack Obama on Wednesday week. They asked the president 40,000 unique questions using the #AskObama – in just 70 minutes.

President Obama was the first President to live tweet last week. His tweet read ‘in order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep – bo’. This marked the start of an avalanche of questions, comments and retweets. The response was described as ‘amazing’. 

According to TwitSprout’s analysis and metrics, the majority of the questions focused on the space programme, followed by questions on drugs, budget, jobs, tax and education. The event also helped raise Mr Obama’s followership to over 9 million followers. Their comprehensive infographic can be found here.

One Guardian.co.uk journalist observed, ‘the whole Twitter town hall format was a bit of a con – Obama received the questions as tweets but answered them through that most old-fashioned of media: opening his mouth and talking.’ Another journalist from the National Review Online commented, ‘The tweets were filtered by “a Twitter Search algorithm” that aimed to “identify the most engaged-with Tweets,” but were also subject to further filtering by a panel. So no one will have been surprised by the absence of anything particularly damning or controversial.’

In reality, though, whatever the political aim or game, little did it matter for the people. Tweets continued to pour in from all over the world, questions continued to be posted, and the follower count continued to accrue. The numbers showed how eager people were to connect in a direct way with the President. The president used channels which are incredibly popular with young people, and connected through channels on which people of any age are spending huge amounts of their time. Once again, Twitter (and before it, Facebook) gave people the opportunity to be heard, an offer which the people gladly took up. 

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