Twitter Apparently Makes Congress Nervous

Lawmakers fear hackers--and gaffes, and just looking silly

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Twitter emailed Congress tips on blocking hackers as Rep. Anthony Weiner struggled to explain how a picture of--allegedly--his bulging briefs made it onto the Internet through his Twitter account. "Some of you inquired today about the security of Twitter accounts," the company's Adam Sharp emailed, Politico's Scott Wong reports. "[N]ews reports of the past few days are a good reminder of the importance of actively protecting your account credentials." Sharp warned against weak passwords, suspicious links, and giving out passwords. But some lawmakers are not as scared of hackers as they are of themselves--one false tweet and their careers could be finished.

"Holding the keys to their accounts gives these lawmakers an authentic voice, but it also makes the embarrassing and even damaging incidents that much worse when they arise," Wong writes. "And they know it." Among the most visible congressional tweeters is Senator Claire McCaskill, whose staff set up with an account two years ago so she could tweet President Obama's inauguration. Her first tweet was about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's hat, and "It was all downhill from there," a McCaskill aide joked to Wong. Only McCaskill has the password to her personal account, which she used recently to express a pretty common sentiment among ladies: feeling fat. Still, several blogs picked up the comment.

Sometimes technical difficulties can lead to embarrassment, like when Sen. Chris Dodd tweeted "U love torturing me with this shit" in November. The tweet was deleted; Dodd's staff said the senator was not the tweeter. Mediaite guessed it was a careless intern. But not all rogue mistakes are ultimately damaging: a Red Cross staffer's party tweet--accidentally posted to the organization's official feed--pulled in pledges for blood donations.

Democratic consultant Steve Murphy told Politico that tweeting should be left to staffers. "Twitter is a great organizing tool for campaigns … but I advise candidates and officeholders not to personally post... Politics is like medicine in this regard--first, do no harm."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.