Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee released its scathing report on the CIA's use of torture in its so-called "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT)" program. The controversial declassified report was passed out of committee on a bipartisan vote, despite subsequent GOP spin efforts to call it partisan.
The GOP and CIA response to the report has been to call it false, one-sided, and not based on evidence (since the Committee did not interview anyone from the CIA for the report). In its defense, the Senator Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) explains that the report is based on the CIA's own contemporaneous documents-emails, memos, etc.-shared by the people in the CIA during the period when they were using EITs. In other words, the Committee used the CIA's own documentation instead of long after-the-fact explanations by those in the hot seats. I will leave it to you to judge which is more trustworthy.
What caught our attention here at Social Media Today was the Twitter-Storm created when Senator Feinstein live-tweeted her rebuttal comments to CIA Director Brennan's response to the report in real-time. I will say quite boldly that this was the greatest use of Twitter by a Member of Congress EVER!
This is what Twitter was made for: to provide a real-time opportunity for people to get their message out, especially at a moment when the world is focused on their issue. This notion of newsjacking, or riding a trend wave, is a state-of-art use of Twitter and Feinstein executed it brilliantly. As the Senator rebutted Brennan point-by-point as the words came out of his mouth she tied it all together with a single hashtag: #ReadTheReport. Andrew Sullivan documented @SenFeinstein's tweet stream and her #ReadTheReport hashtag was called the 'best ever" by the Intercept's Peter Maass (though personally, I prefer my own "#ItsTortureDick" hashtag).
Now some may quibble that the so-called "Twitter-Storm" was barely a blip on the radar. Topsy.com says the hashtag was tweeted and retweeted ~9,200 times. TweetReach.com reports that 829 people have tweeted #ReadTheReport, sharing fewer than 1,500 original tweets. But this effort generated 5.8 million impressions, reaching nearly 2.4 million people. In addition to Senator Feinstein's tweeting, the hashtag banner was picked up by @MiaFarrow, adding her 642 thousand followers to the mix. While these are respectable numbers, what really took her efforts to the stratosphere was how TV news picked up the story. CNN, for example, juxtaposed Brennan's response video with Feinstein's tweets.
As a result, Senator Feinstein's use of Twitter around the torture report accomplished several things. It ensured a clear rebuttal in the public record on Twitter. It generated more attention to the report and the findings in it on mainstream television news. It ensured that the narrative about the report would not be stolen by the opposition, nor diminished by the press. As we say at my firm, "carpe colloquium!" Feinstein seized the conversation by using Twitter to provide detailed information directly to the people, countering opposing arguments and shaping how the mainstream media covered the story.