Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Congressman Weiner Twitter Scandal Erupts Over Holiday Weekend


Anthony Weiner is the epitome of a career politician. He put in his time after college working for future Sen. Chuck Schumer then won a seat on the New York City Council. In 1998, he ran for Congress in New York's 9th Congressional District and won. He has been reelected ever since.

Weiner has an account on the social media website Twitter. His verified account is @repweiner. He follows 198 people, which means the tweets from those accounts appear in his Twitter stream. Last Friday, he followed a mere 91 people. More than 100 have been added since the following scandal erupted.

On Friday night, his Twitter stream sent one of the people he follows a link to a photo. It was a lewd image. The tweet was noticed by some of his followers and the link was forwarded.

Weiner has been on the defensive ever since. He states his account was hacked. The college coed the link was sent to denies any relationship with the congressman. So, why is this incident turning in to a scandal?

Political bloggers have seized upon the tweet and the statements made by the parties involved and have spent a great deal of time dissecting them on their sites. Weiner has retained a lawyer to determine what course of action to pursue and has not, at this point, reported the hack to the police. In the last several days, the coed's Twitter account has gone private.

Among the original 91 people the congressman followed were many young women. The coed the picture link was sent to lives in the Seattle area and just before the picture link was sent the congressman tweeted a comment that referred to Seattle. A timeline prepared by one blogger illustrates the Twitter behavior as was visible publicly. The congressman's current Twitter stream clearly shows he was using Twitter just before the picture link was sent and right after.

Weiner represents a solidly Democratic congressional district. In the seven elections that he has been a candidate in, two were uncontested, and he won the other five with vote totals ranging from 59 percent to 73 percent. This is a safe seat for House Democrats.

Millions of people use Twitter every day. This story will continue to gain traction until the congressman is able to convince the average Twitter user how the account was hacked and why he is choosing not to pursue a police investigation. As it is, blogs and the users of Twitter do not seem to believe his explanation.

Upstate New York resident Charles Simmins brings 30 years of accounting and finance experience and a keen interest in military affairs to the news of the day. His years of experience working with the personnel of the Secretary of Defense's New Media activity on Bloggers' Roundtables provide insights often overlooked by other reporters.

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