Twitter: A New Platform for Petition Delivery

An often untapped power within Twitter is the ability for a common citizen to be able to communicate directly and publicly with elected officials, representatives and other government entities. Twitter has removed the wall that separated individuals from politicians and conversely created a major shift in the way elected officials connect with their supporters.

Historically, as social and political issues arise, individuals reach out to their elected representatives to support or challenge the vote. The past ten years has ushered in a period of very successful online petitions – with a few clicks, an online user can send a petition letter to his/her elected officials and add his/her name to an online petition. The ability to share the petition with peers grew as social media took off. Confluence recently helped Demand Progress and Fight for the Future take the online petition a step further by creating a script that uses Twitter as a tool to deliver petition names directly to the politicians.

The CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) bill was recently resurrected by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and congressman Dutch Ruppersburger. An online petition created shortly thereafter quickly amassed over 1,000,000 signatures in opposition to the proposed bill.

Confluence created a PHP script that randomly grabs a petitioner’s name and city/state (if provided) and places that information within one of four copywritten templates. This tweet is then sent to the Twitter handles for the two politicians mentioned above at the rate of 20 tweets per hour. The impact of tweet after tweet after tweet is far greater – and available for public to see – than a petition that is sent to a politician merely via an online form or one mass tweet.

We utilized Abraham William’s excellent and easy-to-use php library to implement the Twitter API. Signatories were provided within an Excel spreadsheet and Confluence created a MySQL database to store and track all tweets. To ensure that last names were not published, Confluence created a view to extract the first letter of each last name and we also developed a table that prevents duplicate tweets. Our last technical challenge was composing tweets and the variable first name/last letter and city/state lengths to make certain that the sum characters were no greater than 140. The scripted templates were designed to be of varying lengths; as such, if a combined template and signatory information exceeded 140 characters, a different template would be tested against the same parameters and utilized, if an acceptable length.

Examples of the tweets follow:

Any business or cause can leverage this solution to significantly improve the impact of their social media initiatives by multiplying the voice of individuals and concentrating it. Consumer or political activism, market feedback, or education are just a few of the key areas that can leverage this capability. Contact us to discuss your ideas for using this capability for your initiative!