Twitter: ‘Over a million tweets sent’ about Rand Paul filibuster

Josh Peterson | Tech Editor

Twitter reported Thursday afternoon on its blog that more than a million tweets were sent during Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s near-13 hour filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday, placing the conversation almost on par with the 1.36 million tweets sent about President Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union address.

Paul took to the Senate floor at approximately 11:47 a.m. EST to filibuster the Senate’s confirmation vote of White House adviser John Brennan as the new head of the CIA, pending an explanation from the White House as to whether it believes President Barack Obama could justifiably use domestic drone strikes to execute American citizens without due process.

“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” said Paul. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul’s filibuster lasted for 12 hours,  52 minutes and 11 seconds. He was not allowed to sit nor leave the leave the chamber during the entire process.

As the day wore on, the conversation on Twitter grew in support of the senator.

“Supporters tweeted with #standwithrand, while others joined the conversation with creative hashtags like #filiblizzard and #paulnighter”, wrote Bridget Coyne, a member of Twitter’s government team, on the blog.

“Over a million Tweets were sent yesterday about the filibuster,”  she said.

At one point during the filibuster, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz read aloud from the Senate floor tweets about the filibuster to encourage Paul. The tweets were printed out on paper as a way to get around the Senate’s rules against having digital devices in the chamber.

Even though the White House stayed silent on the issue for the remainder of the evening,  #StandWithRand was the top trending conversation on Twitter worldwide at around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday evening.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip, also rejected on behalf of the Democratic Party a non-binding resolution “against the use of drones to execute American citizens on American soil.”

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden was the only member of his party to stand in support of Paul during the filibuster.

People continued to tune into C-SPAN’s livestream and TV broadcast of the event, making it a “busy day” for the network, said Howard Mortman, communications director at C-SPAN, who told TheDC that C-SPAN doesn’t give out viewer numbers.

Hilary Mason, chief scientist at the URL shortner service bitly, told TheDC that they saw over 18,000 clicks from around the world on the www.c-span.org/Live-Video/C-SPAN2/ link during the time period for Paul’s filibuster.

“We saw 18,099 clicks during that period,” said Mason.

bitly is commonly used by Twitter users to shorten links in order to meet the 140 character limit set by Twitter, although its links are also used by other users of other social networks and blogs.

A petition was also started Wednesday night on the White House website to generate a response from President Obama on the issue. As of 5:56pm ET Thursday evening, the petition received 4,812 signatures.

Attorney General Eric Holder did finally send a three-sentence written response to Paul Thursday after the senator had asked for a response from him a month-and-a-half ago.

“The answer to the question is no,” Holder answered.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, clearly unamused by Paul’s efforts, defended the Obama administration’s drone policy and stated that he did not think Paul’s filibuster was “helpful to the American people.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in response to Paul’s filibuster, said on Thursday morning that he did not think Paul’s question deserved an answer.

The recent conclusions of year-long study by the Pew Research Center note that Twitter reactions surrounding major political events often contrast with general public opinion polling about the same events.

The contrast, stated Pew, were most likely attributable to the social network’s small, younger, liberal-leaning user base.

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