Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Philip Alston's official visit to the United States as UN Special Rapporteur has certainly spurred greater attention to inequality in recent weeks, as Angus Deaton's recent NY Times op ed indicates. The Guardian has run a series that refers back to Alston's findings, and other media also picked up the issue during his visit.
But today, one of my students wondered whether much of this reporting was just reverberating around in an echo chamber. As evidence, he looked at the Special Rapporteur's twitter feed. And he was right -- there are just a few thousand followers, with most tweets retweeted less than a 100 times. Compare that with the former US Attorney of the Eastern District of New York, Preet Bharara -- an interesting fellow, but now just a private citizen with 609,000 followers.
Why hasn't the Special Rapporteur's tweeting gotten out beyond a few faithful human rights followers?
Could US human rights advocates make better use of the opportunity provided by Alston's visit if they spent a bit more time getting the word out via social media? According to a Pew study, more adults than ever are getting their news from social media. Alston is to be commended for setting up a twitter account, but it's just the first step, and US human rights advocates should be making sure that every tweet has as much impact as it deserves.