updates on foods recently deemed unsafe.

A number of members of Congress are also Twitter users, including Tim Ryan and Roy Blunt. Some congressmen, including Pete Hoekstra, have tweeted on their opinions of various House decisions.

Drawbacks

As with all new forms of technology and social networking, safety is an issue. On Jan. 5, for example, hackers compromised 33 Twitter accounts, even posting false tweets on Barack Obama and Bill O'Reilly's profiles. A recent phishing scam also redirected Twitter users to fake links and fraudulent Web sites. Twitter creators claim, however, that they are working to improve the security of user accounts.

While some may find that 140-character limit helps simplify messages and prevent information overload, others may believe that 140 characters isn't always enough. One solution utilized by the Los Angeles Fire Department is to post only the most critical information, and then include a Web address for TinyURL, a service that creates a short address for longer URLs. By clicking on the link, followers can read the rest of the message. Another solution is using applications such as Twitzer, which allow users to post messages longer than 140 characters.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for public-sector tweeting is viewership. With the exception of Barack Obama, most governments have failed to attract a large number of followers. This has been an issue for other Web 2.0 technologies utilized by the government, including YouTube.

Glossary of Terms

Tweets: User updates which are posted on the user's account and sent to anyone who subscribes to the account. These updates are text-based posts up to 140 characters in length.

Tweeting: The action of posting updates, or "tweets."

Followers: Users who subscribe to a fellow user's account, gaining access to their "tweets."

 

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