Buried deep in Twitter's archives, the first users of "Obamacare" symbolize a fundamental divide in the Twitter universe: @WSJopinion, the Wall Street Journal's opinion team, and @victoria_29, a lover of NASCAR from "God's Country-Texas."
Do the @victoria_29s of the world have the power to affect national policies on topics like health care via Twitter? If the "Obamacare" case is an indicator of broader trends, the answer is no, probably not. In particular, this summer's campaign to "defund Obamacare" proves that even grassroots political movements on Twitter might be AstroTurf: Fake public outrage manufactured by traditional players in Washington like special-interest groups, think-tanks, and a handful of elected officials.
Efforts to gut funding for the Affordable Care Act are underway on Capitol Hill and computer screens across the country. Conservative groups like Heritage Action, Tea Party Patriots, and ForAmerica are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads and multi-state advocacy tours. At the same time, the Twitterverse has seen a gradual swell of conversation about health care -- 1.93 million tweets over the past two months. This summer has seen more tweets than the summer when the Supreme Court ruled on the health-care legislation (1.6 million tweets), the spring when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a "slut" (338,000 tweets), or the winter when the Obama Administration struggled to compromise with religious communities on the birth-control mandate (562,000 tweets).